It is that time of the year when universities announce slots they have for admission into different courses. It is that time of the year when parents should sit their children down to advise them about life on campus in preparation for their supposed new life as they get into university.

We know how these things go – most of these students just fresh out of secondary schools at 14, 15 or 16, would be looking forward to being given admission into either studying Medicine, Engineering, Law, or Accountancy, either because somehow they or their parents are convinced that to become successful in life, they need to be in a professional course. But life never gives you all you expect so it is either they don’t get these courses, get something else, let’s say “Yoruba”, start getting low grades because of lack of interest, then drop out of school, OR they study these “professional courses”, come out and realize that there are no jobs in the country, then they resign to being struggling musicians, or motivational speakers because life didn’t just throw lemons at them (that would have been better) but poured desert sand all over their bodies.

A lot of times, parents seem too much in a hurry to send their wards to school without checking out their level of maturity and preparedness for that new level of their lives. A person’s life in the university sets the pace for how he embraces the outside world after school. There is a recession in the country at the moment and with every day that goes by, it becomes harder to survive or get a job. People are laid off from work every day and these days’ “laying off” seems to be a no-respecter of persons. A couple of weeks back, a hospital laid off a number of their doctors of which a friend of mine was part of, on the grounds that they could no longer afford to pay their staff. These days it is no longer about how or what you studied in school? It is now about what skills a person has, because like it or not, you come out of school into an economy that cannot provide jobs for you. You get a M.Sc., or a P.HD and the government cannot afford to pay you your worth. So what skills do you have?

For parents, those children you keep pushing so hard to go into the university, what exactly do they know about life? Are they just going into the university, to come out four years later with all the trappings of peer pressure or are you going to take your time as a parent to make sure they improve their talents and build skills set that would be useful in this competitive world?

A child who finishes secondary/high school, moves on into the university may not be apt with dealing with the peer pressures that come with the new world, because you have failed in setting the pace for introspection (inward reflection) about what they want to be in life. And it goes beyond careers, or even choosing courses. The world is at a place where everybody has a brand and what better time to start building that brand than when you are still very young.

I know you are probably wondering what I am driving at right now, my point is that your children could use a break. Yes, a break between high school and tertiary education. You really do not need to rush your children into school, allow them learn a new skill; let them travel during that period, meet new people, try to earn some money for themselves. I know it seems like this will further distract them from the books they are supposed to focus on when they get back into school. But taking this break, this gap year to explore has a lot of advantages which outweigh what may be disadvantages if there are any.

Studies have shown that students who take breaks between high school and the university of course to improve their levels of productivity either by volunteering for companies, or improving their talents, always come back with a higher level of maturity than their peers, more skills set, a higher sense of composure and they fall less to peer pressure. Taking this break and investing the time wisely into reading, travelling, exploring, meeting new people, interning or trying to earn a living allows a child time to think about what courses to choose, make researches on what those courses entail, and it prevents all those stories about how they were forced to study a particular course but had to change later because they supposedly got to see the light (You know those speeches motivational speakers give).

And for those parents who choose courses for their children, words cannot express my disdain for you, especially the ones who would still allow their children have this gap-year but still go on to pick courses for their children. You have lived your life and it is time for your children to live theirs. So, hands-off and allow your children build their paths on their own.

This article was written by Blessing Iyamadiken

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