Here’s Why a Sabbatical After High School Would Help Teens

Am I the only one, or do other parents out there in Parentville wish there was a place in between high school and college where our kids could go when they’re not quite sure what they wanna be when they grow up?

You know, someplace in between, where they could be exposed to a medley of professions, sort of like Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Just maybe not quite as dirty. Cause I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt like it’s a huuuuuge stretch to assume that our seventeen or eighteen-year-old kids have their future all figured out in time to pick their fall classes for freshman year.

It’s just not realistic for everyone.

Why teens need to take a sabbatical after high school

Because whenever I’ve really thought about it, it amazes me how, as a teenager with such a limited cache of knowledge and experience, any of us could know for absolute certain what career path we want to follow as an adult.

I mean, sure, some kids know what they want to do with their lives from the time they’re little and they follow that track in college and end up in that field as adults. And that’s fantastic for them. But they’re the minority, because I found a statistic in an article that confirms that eighty percent of college-bound students have yet to choose a major. But they are still expected to pick schools and apply to and start degree programs without knowing where they want to end up. And that’s staggering. Eighty. Percent.

That’s why I’ve often thought it makes more sense to design a sabbatical, a place where high school grads can go to sample a handful of careers before they head off to college. A place that gives them a chance to vet different fields before they commit to one discipline for the next four years of their life and beyond. Makes sense, right?

Like maybe they go to this way-station-type place for a year, say, and it offers them a way of immersing themselves in different jobs in a variety of fields for a finite amount of time to give them a basic sense of what a job in that field would look and feel and smell like. (Well, maybe not smell like.)

What I’m talking about is separate from a gap year—aka a sabbatical—that’s designed to let our kids take a step back between high school and college, so they can maturely consider the benefits of a higher-education. That’s a different kind of option altogether. I’m suggesting something more like a series of internships, for lack of a better word, in their potential field(s) of study, so they can really see, first-hand, what a career in education or law or nursing is like from the inside and not just from a lecture hall.

And, to ensure that the kids who attend this kind of Sample University aren’t losing valuable time by postponing going to college by a year, maybe they could accumulate a semester’s worth of “life credits” that they could take with them to their college or university of choice once they decide which field to pursue.

Because with a daughter who just graduated from high school and who isn’t one-hundred percent sure which field she wants to pursue, I know I’d love to see her be able to “try on” a few different careers before she buys, if you know what I mean? Cause I think we can all agree that not every kid is ready to jump straight into a field right after high school. Especially the kids who have zero idea what they want to do with their lives.

So, wouldn’t it be nice if a place existed where our high-school-graduate kids could spend two months at a time, over a period of a traditional ten-month academic year, testing out four or five different career paths. Then, once they’ve been exposed to a handful of their top career choices, and gotten that three-dimensional chance to experience them, they can move on to college with a more concrete idea of what direction to take when they finally do declare their major.

And the whole place could be privately funded by the different industries who are represented as a way of incenting incoming students to try their track of study. Now granted, I haven’t exactly done a deep-dive on all the logistics, including how we can build a whole bunch of these places scattered around the country, but I feel like someone out there’s gotta have the skill set to pull that together.

It just seems like such a necessary resource for the kids who are graduating high school and jumping into the first year or two of college undeclared and clueless of what direction to take with the rest of their life. This way, they’ve got a way to try on a bunch of hats to see which one fits best without wasting a lot of valuable time and momentum.

We could call it Try It On U. Jazzy, right?

It could work, no?


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About Lisa Sugarman

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column It Is What It Is and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids and Be Ok with It--Real Tips & Strategies for Parents of Today's Gen Z KidsUntying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere. Read and discuss all her columns and books at Or, find them on GrownAndFlown, Thrive Global, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings, MommingHubb, More Content Now, Wickedlocal, This Mama Wines, and Care(dot)com. She's also the founder and moderator of The Vomit Booth, the popular Facebook Group where parents can go to bond, share, and connect over the madness of raising kids in today's world.

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