Information for the parents of college students
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Is a High School Postgrad Program Right for Your Student?

This is the second of two posts about high school postgrad programs.  In our first post, we considered what a postgrad program is and some reasons why your student might consider one.  In this post, we look at the benefits of such a program as well as how to help your student know what to expect.

Your student is about to graduate from high school, but you and she have decided that spending an extra year preparing for college may be an ideal solution.  You’re considering a postgrad program at an independent school, but you’re still not sure this is the right choice for your student.  Here are some factors to consider regarding the benefits, the timing, and the expectations your student might have.

What are the benefits of an additional year of high school?

Although postgrad programs are a fifth year of high school, the importance of the year is that it is significantly different from the traditional four years.  This is definitely not intended to be “more of the same.”

  • Students may experience small classes at an independent school.  This can be especially important if your student graduated from a large public high school with large classes.
  • Students may have the opportunity to build strong relationships with faculty members. This is good “practice” for college faculty relationships, and can also result in strong letters of recommendation.
  • Your student will have the experience of living away from home on a school campus.
  • Your student may use the transition year to explore a new part of the country which may influence his ultimate college choice.
  • Your student will have the opportunity to mature socially, emotionally, academically, and to gain confidence in her abilities.
  • Because all necessary high school requirements are already completed, your student will have the opportunity to make academic choices with college in mind.  He can fill in gaps or take more advanced courses in areas of interest.
  • Your student will be exposed to new students, new perspectives, and have opportunities for new types of personal growth.

When should my student think about a postgrad year?

Just as many students consider a postgrad year for many different reasons, students explore the idea of a program at different times.  Timing is as individual as reasons for attending.

  • Some students know early on in their high school career that a program of this type will be beneficial.  They begin planning early and plan their high school curriculum around a fifth year.
  • Some students choose to apply to both college and a postgrad program and make the decision based on college acceptances.
  • Some students may not be accepted to the colleges that they have chosen and then decide to do a postgrad year and reapply.
  • Some students are accepted to college but choose to defer for a year in order to use the postgrad year to ease the transition.

What should my student expect?

Postgrads are considered regular seniors in most programs.  Although some programs may give students a bit more independence, and some course choices may be different, postgrads are assimilated into the life of the school.

  • Your student will need to consider carefully the fit of the program to his needs.  Not all programs are the same.  He should consider size, structure, academics, counseling availability, extracurricular activities.  He will need to think carefully about his goals and how they fit with the program.
  • Your student should be prepared to have to explain his option to people who may not understand the nature of a postgrad year.  This is an important factor is certain parts of the country where such programs are less common. (Some high school counselors may not even have considered such a program.)
  • Your student may experience mixed emotions as his friends head off to college and talk about their experiences.  His experiences will be significantly different.
  • Your student will need to get engaged quickly when he enters his program.  The number of postgrads will likely be small and he will need to get to know students who have been together throughout high school.  However, most schools work diligently to assimilate new students.
  • Your student will need to think about his next step immediately.  He will have only one year in this program.  As soon as he enters the program he will be thinking about college the following year.

A postgrad year is certainly not for every student.  But it is an ideal opportunity for some students.  You and your student may want to discuss the possibility of a fifth year experience in order to better prepare for college success. At a time when the average time to college graduation nationally is five years, investing in a fifth year of high school may increase the chances of your student completing college in four years – at the school of his choice.

If you decide to consider the option, talk about your student’s goals and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, look carefully at available programs, talk to students who have participated in postgrad programs, and discuss the option with your student’s counselor and/or college admissions personnel.  Knowing and exploring the options will make a difference no matter what your student decides.

Related Posts:

What Is a High School Postgrad Program?

Should My College Student Consider Deferring Enrollment for College?

Should My College Student Consider Taking a Gap Year Before Starting College?

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