TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — Graduation could be bittersweet for high school and college graduates without plans. The feeling intensifies when friends and classmates appear to have a direction. Still, these students in life limbo shouldn’t feel like a failure.
Tampa psychologist Dr. Wendy Rice explains, “It’s definitely not too late to figure out what they want to do.”
Dr. Rice works with many students and tells News Channel 8 a year off could be a good idea, even when parents may not be comfortable with the idea.
“Lots of colleges and graduate schools and employers are happy to have a student or young adult with a year more maturity or experience under their belt,” says Dr. Rice.
A common practice in Europe, Americans are just getting used to the concept of the “gap year.” When President Obama’s daughter Malia put Harvard on hold for a year, many were intrigued by the concept of delaying a college education. Dr. Rice says a year off is really a year of growth and self-discovery; a time to explore interests though internships or service-based travel.
Parents can help their sons and daughters discover skills and strengths, but Dr. Rice explains that too much help, like completing applications for work or graduate school, could be a red flag.
“Maybe then that’s the time to seek some professional help and get some objective information on how to help push your child to the next level,” says Dr. Rice.
Even graduate school graduates with a clear career path may find themselves in limbo. Kato Pinder just got his master’s in engineering from USF and doesn’t know what he’ll do next. Pinder tells News Channel 8, “Right now I don’t have anything solidified as to where I’m going to work.”
While volunteering and interning may not get you paid, it could get you noticed, and Dr. Rice explains this is the time to get yourself out there. She adds, “Talk to parents, friends, you get out there. Nothing is going to happen if you sit in your room and play video games.”
Graduation doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the halls of your alma mater. Many schools offer resources and counseling for alumni free of charge. Taking advantage of these resources can help a student narrow down a focus or a job.