Unlikely to graduate college if you take time off after high school

I’m always telling high school graduates to take time off after high school to do something interesting before college. That’s what I did. My parents feared I would never go to college. But I won out in the end. And the downtime — after the pressure cooker of high school — helped me figure out what I wanted to major in. But the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests that my parents were right to worry.

According to a longitudinal study that tracked students from their 10th grade year in 2002 through their mid-twenties in 2012, only 6 percent of students who took a year or more off after high school earned a bachelor’s degree by the time they were 25 to 26 years old. But 42 percent of students who went to college straight after high school completed their B.A. or B.S. ┬ádegrees during that 10-year time period.

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Source: NCES Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002): A First Look at 2002 High School Sophomores 10 Years Later (Table 2)

I’m not quite ready to tell all kids to go straight to college. I’d like to see this data broken down by the selectivity of the college these students eventually go to. I would guess that the graduation rates of students who took off a year, but still go to a top college are fairly high.


POSTED BY Jill Barshay ON January 9, 2014

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