Failure to Launch: Should You Take a Gap Year between High School and College?

Certainly, the transition from high school to college is challenging enough. Add to it a possible complication and distraction of depression or anxiety, a learning or a psychiatric disability, and a young adult and his or her parents often will need additional support. The young adult may be experiencing what is referred to as a “failure to launch,” and the family does not know where to turn. Should you take gap year before college? Info on Failure to Launch.

During the gap year before college, there are helpful steps that can be proactively taken as an intervention to help support young adults in a successful academic transition so that ‘failure to launch’ can be avoided.

The majority of students approaching their transition from high school to college basically seem to have the intellectual ability to succeed in school. This may cause parents confusion and concern (and rightfully so) when your bright son or daughter suddenly begins to have difficulties in the academic environment.

Let’s begin by defining “success.” Do you define it as straight A’s? Getting into an Ivy League school? There are many young adults who are not motivated to pursue a parent’s expectations, hopes, and goals with the same amount of vigor they have. They may not have established a capacity to persevere at this level, as bright as they have proven themselves to be.

They may need help in reaching their next developmental milestone. They may see that in our rapidly changing world, “just” having a degree, even at the graduate level, is not a guarantee of security, and they need encouragement to find that security in other, more intangible ways that can be developed.

Often these individuals are, by nature, perfectionists. So, the very fact that they are not living up to expectations and causing loved ones to suffer can affect their self-image and self-respect, and they do not feel affirmed. They pick up on and internalize the disappointment they perceive others have of them which only contributes to the complexity of the difficulties they are experiencing.

The family needs guidance and support so the flames of greater chaos are not fueled which, then, reinforces the awful cycle of feeling alienated and unheard. Already, arguments have likely ensued and feelings have been hurt.

If you are feeling like things cannot go on as they are, and your young adult is feeling frustrated and unhappy, it’s time to take action. So what can you do?

First, part of the healing process will be for you to deliberately seek out and share moments of joy with your child. Secondly, have hope. All is not lost. Things can turn around. With the right strategy and effort, I repeatedly have seen this to be the case. Young adults do need validation (all the more so if your son or daughter also is impacted by the distraction of a psychiatric/emotional or learning disability), but in ways that are more intensive and unique, ways that involve identifying and encouraging their personal interests, strengths, and passions in a supportive environment.

In our Failure to Launch residential program for young men and women, we address this transition process by treating the whole person. We have the clinical sophistication to utilize medications (if appropriate) as well as a variety of therapeutic approaches ranging from Dialectic Behavioral Therapy and dynamic psychotherapy to Improv groups and psychotherapy groups. We consider this gap year to be an opportunity for great personal growth.

We have nearly twenty clubs that serve to encourage our participants to explore, engage, and reaffirm their own unique talents and abilities and that help begin the necessary process of building success upon success upon success. We then integrate these experiences into an individualized plan that helps them apply the lessons they have learned to the academic transition process.

During this gap year, we focus on the opportunity for the participant to mature in a variety of life skills including learning how to take care of their own space/place of living, managing their schedule, and discovering uses for free time in ways that help them begin to build a life worth living.

Additionally, we focus on supporting young adults in learning and integrating into their lives an understanding of:

  • the value of creating and maintaining a realistic budget
  • how to express love in healthy and safe ways, to learn to date and be in a mutually loving relationship
  • how to meet people and handle social situations skillfully
  • finding a passion and learning to express it joyfully

Through structured, creative, and inspiring activities, our program helps young adults become successful by discovering and integrating that special voice that is in their hearts with the wisdom, personal growth, and experiences that make it real— by trying, succeeding, and failing but always persevering based on a developing a sense of hope that is supported by the successes they are starting to achieve in the real world. We teach them to utilize the energy that comes from finding and engaging in their passions to motivate them to focus on ways to earn a living and to experience joy in their lives.

If you have questions about OPI’s Failure to Launch Program for young adults ages 17-28 and whether it is a good fit, give us a call at (888)-814-5985, or Click Here to submit a contact form, and we’ll be in touch promptly.