It does rather depend on how they spend that time. Staying at home and
working behind a counter all year, in order to buy a car/expensive
holiday/etc may not alter their perspective on life very much at all.
I've known quite a few change their minds totally about what they wanted
to study at Uni and what they wanted as a future career - after a few
weeks experience of what the career (or a different one) involves.
IMHO - the gap year is an invaluable part of the education process and
well worth a bit of effort getting it right. There is an unrepeatable
I think that it depends on the person. I started college (well,
DeVry's 3-year program) two weeks out of high school and was finished
and working at a Silicon Valley company (GTE Government Systems) at
21. I was the youngest engineer they had ever had. I thank my father
for putting the boot up my ass (actually at a much earlier age than
18) and not allowing me to sit on my butt.
I count myself lucky, however. Most kids that age don't know what they
want to do. Even so, if a child of mine took some time off right after
high school before going to college, I would want it to be productive,
e.g., going into the military for a couple of years would be a great
Tick-tock - time is passing, even at 18.
No matter what we think or hope, they are going to do what they wish at
that age. The best thing a parent can do is train them properly from 0
% Randy Yates % "Though you ride on the wheels of tomorrow,
%% Fuquay-Varina, NC % you still wander the fields of your
Its not a matter of deciding what you want to do. Anyone who hasn't some
kind of idea about that by 18 needs vigorous prodding until they wake
up. That year break should be more about refining your goals, and
working out how to achieve them.
I never met anyone who wait straight from school to college who worked
nearly as hard as they could have (this was the route I took). I've
never seen anyone who went to college after a break and sat around
idling their time away. That break seems to focus the mind. A good part
of it is no doubt seeing what life is like without a good degree, but I
wouldn't presume I understood the whole picture. I just observe the outcome.
I didn't start college until I was 21, and that was after a career
re-assessment prompted by slicing the tip of a finger off in the
jointer in the millwork shop I was running.
Even then, I concentrated my EE electives in materials science and
microelectronics for silicon fab, as I kind of thought that that was
what I wanted to do. I was very fortunate in that my first job was
heavy in DSP, I got to do a lot of very interesting and educational
stuff and my specialty focus changed completely. After three years
of that I returned to grad school with a lot better idea of what I was
really good at and wanted to do.
By then I was 28.
So some people are a little slower than others at sorting things out
and take different routes at getting there. I've also known people
who just took a year to travel and see the world or whatever either
right after high school or right after college. I have no criticism
about that as it can give a person a very valuable perspective on life
and what really matters to them.
A person's value/morals/work ethics are already pretty well in place
by the time they get out of high school, so I don't think taking a
trip and not working for a year or so (if they have that privilege
available to them) is going to turn them into a bum. If they turn
into a bum because of it I wouldn't blame it on the trip necessarily.
One has an entire lifetime to work and develop a career, but
opportunities to travel and expand one's perspective are often
limited. If one gets that opportunity as a young person, more power
to them, and I'd say go for it. Even doing some other job or
something can be enriching. I have no regrets about working as a
skilled laborer for several years, even though I actually didn't like
most of it at the time. It's a lifestyle that I can understand and
relate to because I lived it.
I wish life was longer as I think it would be fun to try a career as a
lawyer, cartoonist, musician, racing, etc. Dang, there just ain't
enough hours in a day... ;)
Minister of Algorithms
That sounds like a somewhat technical activity. At least you'd focussed
yourself getween arts and sciences. Some teenagers seems unable to even
At college I was most interested in making computation go fast. The
first job I got was to make the computations in signal processors go
fast. Colleges didn't generally have courses on DSP at that time. I got
Rabiner and Gold, and taught myself what I needed to diversify my work
from pure logic architecture. I don't consider that a major shift in
direction. Pretty minor fine tuning, really.
By 28 I had been working 7 years, and I'd done a fairly diverse range of
things, but all in the same general area.
If you are just going take a year's holiday between school and college I
doubt it serves any purpose at all.
I should hope their values and morals are in place. I'm not sure about
work ethic, though. I've seen a lot of people get their act together
after a short time in the working world, because for the first time
they've actually figured out *why* they needed an education. The *why*
is sadly something the educators have generally not figured out, and so
are unable to pass on to youngsters.
This is a luxury few can afford. I really doubt be a tourist serves any
purpose beyond being a holiday. When I travel for work I make a point of
never being a tourist, unless I'm dragged into seeing things by people
trying to be kind.
I'd be interested in how you ended up there, considering you appear to
have the intellectual capacity to succeed in something more mentally
Given an opportunity to relive my life, I would steer clear of
engineering, or anything that interests me. Life has taught me that
working for a living in any activity will suck all the joy out of it.
Better to do something that seems dull from the outset, and offers
better career prospects.
I know a guy like this. College degree. Worked as Union laborer in
road construction to pay his way through school. It was a pretty sweet
deal. VERY high pay, only work in the warm months. Work requires
basically no skill, just union suction. When he graduated. (biology
zoology etc.) kept the job. Boss moved him to supervisor. Now VERY
VERY high pay. Same working benefits. Spends off work time traveling
to rain forests in central America and doing bird-chasing all over the
country. Not a total success as you still spend half your life doing
stupid things for money, but still better than having a job and hating
it and not being able to do anything else.
Then you should just DO it! I used to work for Professor A.H. Benade
(author of the famed music physics books). One day he says to me: "Do
you know what "success" is?" No, say I. "Success", he said, "is
thinking of what you'd rather be doing than anything else in the whole
world and then finding someone who will PAY you do do it!" He lived
And I sort of have. My view has always been that when I take a job, I
ALWAYS ask myself the key question: Would I take this job if it paid
NOTHING? If the answer is "yes", I sign on! If you have wide interests
like me, you'll find that finding jobs like that is not as hard as you
might think. But you have to have the guts if you want to be a
cartoonist, musician, lawyer etc. to actually go HANG with the group
you want to join and start developing the relationships that will make
it work. I've seen WAY too many engineers who are in it because it
pays well. Feh! I can't think of a worse punishment than doing
engineering if you hate it!
This was Einstein's theory. He said that if he had it to do over
again, he'd rather be a plumber. A plumber makes decent cash. The work
is not mentally taxing. So you get to eat well and still have time to
think about the problems that interest YOU. The problem Einstein had
was that once you get a job as a physicist, they keep coming around
asking when you are going to put out your NEXT world-changing theory!
Of course one does have to understand that the reason some people pay
other people money to do certain jobs is because the job is a pain in
the ass. But on the other hand, IF you want an education, a pain in
the ass job may be just the ticket. What better way to start to learn
about sanitary engineering than shoveling gob at the bottom of a
I'm from a small midwestern town in a rural area, so most of the
people I went to college with were from pretty hard-working
backgrounds and worked at some job or other like that while we were in
school (I continued in the construction trades until my last year of
college). One of the most brilliant people that I was friends with,
a girl who was my lab partner, was a manager at a Dairy Queen and was
seriously considering staying there when we graduated. She didn't
and now she's a senior executive VP at a major defense contractor.
I'm definitely doing something that I like, and it's something that
takes a long time to really get good at. I think that's true of
many/most professions, though; you're not going to be really good
until you've been at it a long enough time to have made enough
mistakes and had enough successes to really understand things. So
that's pretty much what I meant...in one lifetime it's tough to have
more than a couple of careers where you get to spend enough time to
really figure things out. I'd like to have about eight or nine by
current count of things in which I'm interested, so I already know
life's not long enough to do all that.
Minister of Algorithms
I think you're really short-changing yourself there, and you're an
unusual business traveller if that's really what you do. You learn a
lot about the world and about other people and yourself when you're in
a foreign environment (and by foreign I mean anything other than
you're usual surroundings). I always look forward to being in
different places for that reason. When you're in some place you've
never been then everything around every corner is new and fresh.
I'm from a fairly small town in the rural midwest; it was a looong way
to go to get to any real civilization where there were opportunities
other than the sort that I took. It just seemed the natural thing to
do at the time.
It's just good fortune that we also had a very, very good engineering
college in the same town. A problem for that state is that they have
good technical education, but the vast majority of graduates leave the
state since there are few local jobs.
Minister of Algorithms
As a business traveler I get to meet ordinary people in their daily
lives. I get to drink and eat what they eat (I'll eat almost anything,
and I'm crazy enough to have drunk the tap water in rural India). Often
to be invited to their homes. This is a far richer experience that I
could ever have in tourist mode.
I was lucky enough to attend a world class engineering school in my home
town too - London :-)
Ah, I misunderstood what you meant by "tourist mode". I took your
statement to mean that you weren't getting out and seeing things, not
that you weren't using the usual "tourist" means or venues.
Minister of Algorithms
I think that's rather sad. I mean, I'm all for working hard and insuring you
get your job done for your employer when they've sent you on a business trip
at considerable expense and all, but when you genuinely have free time, I can
think of nothing sadder than sitting around in a motel room watching TV. What
do you spend your time doing?
This isn't true for everyone; many people are able to true enjoy their careers
their entire lives.
I'm basing that on an experience I had back in... mmm... 1995, where I was on
a field install in East St. Louis -- that's all the other guy I was with did
after we had spent 10 hours working. That, and occasionally strolling down to
the motel bar to get a drink.
That would be an interesting statistic. I'd like to believe it's in the high
single-digits (those who have the financial means to quit work but don't), but
I really have no idea.
There are varying views on that. I did, because I finished high
school at the age of 14, and took a year off. I then took another
off after the first year of college. But I have unconfirmed doubts
that it was a good thing. It encouraged me to diversify early. Of
course in those days college didn't cost the world, so it was
relatively easy ($250 annual tuition!).
This really depends on a lot of things...
There are many scholarships and other financial offerings that are
designed to be used by a student going directly from high school to
college. You need to apply for them WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL! (and
sometimes, in your junior year!) or you can't get them. To many, this
financial support is just about required if they are going to go to
college, so a year off is just going to mean they don't go at all... :-(
These things are not mutually exclusive. I remember when applying for
colleges, a couple of them offered me a place "to be taken in the next
academic year, or the one following, at your choice". So, it is often
possible to get college settled while at school, and still take a year
out to work or hatch evil plots to take over the world.
Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.