Q & A
My son is completing his last year in secondary school. He wants to take next year to travel with his friends, but I think he should go to university. I am worried that he may not want to study after a year away.
Consultant Florence Robertson replies:
Many secondary school graduates want to take a year to travel. This can be a maturing experience before going to college or university. It helps students to understand other cultures better and get rid of some of the prejudices they may have. In addition, they often gain a better idea about their plans and goals. They learn to make their own decisions rather than leaning on their parents.
You are right that some students do not return to university but instead want to make money. Although education may be important to them, they want to postpone further studies until they make enough to feel totally independent. By that time, they often don't want to go to university as they feel they will be much older than the other students.
Make sure your son feels you are interested in what is best for him. Avoid giving him a lecture, as you want him to be a responsible person who can make wise decisions for himself. Ask him why he prefers to travel now rather than waiting until after he graduates. Try to find out if he has any particular education or career goals to see if his decision is part of an overall plan.
It is important to explain your concerns that he may not want to go to college or university after travelling.
Let your son see that you too see the value in travel. He would see more of the world. He could visit places that he has read about. In addition, he could test whether his perceptions of other countries and their cultures are correct or not. He might make new and lasting friends from different parts of the world.
Help him to be realistic about some of the problems that he may face if he delays his studies. Some students find studying and preparing papers very difficult if they have taken a year off. They notice that they lack the support of their friends that were in their same year at high school. They no longer have the same things in common with them as they are a year ahead in their education.
Your son will make a more informed decision after an open discussion in which he has explored with you the values and problems of delaying university or college for a year. If he still feels travelling is better for him at this time, you know that you have helped him to look realistically at his plans. He will realise that you have helped him with his decision and have not tried to dictate what he should do.