How To Talk To Your Parents About Taking A Semester Off

Posted by Up with People on June 12, 2019

Gap year students taking a selfie For most young people, there are a series of steps you follow throughout your educational career. Middle school leads to high school, high school leads to college or vocational school and so on. But what if you have something different in mind? What if you want to take a semester off to travel or participate in a study abroad program? What if you want to gain life experience through traveling, volunteering, or participating in cultural exchange before continuing on with your formal education?

A gap year or even a semester off from college is a great way to do that. Many gap year and semester abroad programs provide opportunities for experiential learning through cultural immersion which can expand your horizons to new possibilities you may never have considered!

Then it comes down to talking to your parents. Telling them that you want to take a semester or a year off can seem daunting. Maybe you’re afraid that they’ll be disappointed, or you’re worried that they’ll respond by telling you all the reasons why you shouldn’t go. And we get it! Many of our office staff at Up with People are parents and can understand your hesitation, which is why we’re providing some insight into the best approach for sharing your plans with your parents.

Share details about the program

The first thing you’ll want to do is narrow down your selection and identify one particular program that you’d really like to travel with. In a conversation with your parents, be prepared to explain exactly what you want to do, where you’ll be going, how much it will cost and other various details.

Parents just want to be kept in the loop, so if you can provide them with specific details, they’ll feel more confident about supporting you and your choice. While it’s important to make your own decisions and figure out how to overcome obstacles on your own, your parents will be more willing to offer their support if you continue to update them throughout your planning process and journey. Be sure to include them in the process. Trust us, they’ll appreciate it!

Explain the benefits

Did you know that many colleges, including Ivy League schools like Harvard, are now much more accepting of people who have taken a gap year? 60% of students in a recent study conducted by the Year Out Group said a gap year helped them decide what subject to study at university. The same study found that 66% of students took their academic work more seriously after taking a year off to travel.

There are so many benefits to experiential learning. Initially, your parents may only hear that you want to take some time off from your core responsibilities, so it’s important to help them understand the benefits of your program.

For those who aren’t sure which career path to take or what to study, talk to your parents about using this time to explore new interests and options. It will expand your horizons to experience other cultures and meet new people that you would not have been exposed to otherwise.

If you do know what you plan to do in your education or your career, tell your parents that this is an opportunity for you to grow your knowledge and experiences through volunteering abroad, and that you will return with new skill sets when you re-enter college or begin for the first time.

Let your parents know you plan on returning to college

If we didn’t mention this before, make it clear to your parents that you do in fact plan on returning to college after taking some time off. Knowing that it will be a six- to twelve-month venture will ease their minds because they can count on your return.

Traveling overseas is also an incredible way to help you be more mindful in your approach to your education. You’ll know more about what you want to gain out of college and you’ll have new skills to apply back into your education.

Study abroad students volunteering in North America

Show them that you are ready to be independent

As an 18-year-old finishing high school or a college-aged student, your parents will always view you as their child. Show your parents that finding your independence as a young adult is important for your personal and professional growth.

Want to really show your parents you are serious about becoming independent? Let them know that you plan on contributing financially towards your program fees. This will show your commitment to your choice as well as a level of maturity your parents will be grateful to see.

Acknowledge their concerns, they’re valid too

At the end of the day, they’re still your parents and you’re still their kid that they have raised since day one. They have every right to be nervous as you choose to leave school or even the country to pursue an avenue that may be completely foreign to them.

That is perfectly okay. Show your parents the program’s safety precautions as well as any outside safety research you have done along the way. Create a plan to help ease their minds when it comes to communicating with you throughout your journey. Whether it’s through social media, texting, phone apps or any other means, give your parents a few options with a plan of action ready for them while you travel.

Prepare to discuss financial aid options

Don’t forget to fill them in on the financial aid, scholarships, grants and fundraising options that are available to you. It’s important that you express to them the true cost of the program, how you plan on affording it and how much help you will realistically need from them. Remember,  if you are planning to contribute to the program, add that to your case.

Be excited and enthusiastic

Do you want to travel around the world? Do you want to get out of the town you have lived in for your whole life and experience new cultures? Now is the time to get excited!

Express to your parents your enthusiasm and excitement for this opportunity. These kinds of emotions are contagious. This could be the piece of the puzzle that pushes them over the edge to accepting and supporting you and your decision to take time off to travel.

Make your gap year sound as exciting and meaningful as possible to make them wish they had taken one themselves!

Get To Talking

Now you have some tools to use when it comes to having the conversation with your parents. Do your research and plan ahead before sitting them down. Don’t forget that they are still your parents and will love you no matter what. They only want what is best for you, so show them that this option is what is best for you.

“Each time we reach out beyond our knowing
Each time that we overcome
Or breach the limits of our love
We leave dreams for our little ones”

The Further We Reach Out © Up with People

Questions? Click Here To Contact Up with People.


Topics: Gap Year Abroad

Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.

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