For college-minded teens and their families, the usual plan of action is to head off to college the fall immediately following high school graduation. Four (or more) years of education is the natural move to keep the learning going and the teen in a structured environment.

But what about those teens who aren't ready to go straight to college and are seeking a year to do something off the beaten path? For those who have the flexibility – be it living with their parents, saved money, or a deferred acceptance to their college or university – teens who take a "gap" year can truly benefit from the experience. Here are four reasons this time away from schooling can make an impact that will last through college and beyond.

1. Discover Passions and Talents

Not every high schooler knows what they want to do or who they "want to be" right out of the gate. Even those who look forward to the college experience may wish to head into freshman year with some idea of where to focus their studies rather than going for a liberal arts program or without a point of reference.

Teens can take this year to research, intern, or even head abroad to enlighten and expand their imaginations to give them a sense of purpose, leading to a field of study that will benefit their future. As per Go Abroad, "There are so many life paths to follow, and so many careers and academic majors that you might have never considered. There are career fields out there that high school doesn't even touch on."

This time, whether at home or away, is the perfect time for the teen to reflect on who they are as a person, leading them to make choices that jive with their personality and interests. According to Her Campus, "Although we have a lot of responsibilities by the time we graduate high school, we're still pretty young. We've only known ourselves as a part of some kind of unit." It's the perfect time to see what makes the individual tick without peer influence, parental control, and the limited surroundings of the traditional school setting.

2. Better Prep for the Years to Come

Time off can help a teen become more mature and prepared for their transition to adulthood. Going straight from the high school hallways to the college dorms is a change, but still a similar course. Having time to make their own decisions, plan their own schedules, and learning as they go, teens will have the ammo to navigate college life where many decisions are left to the students.

As per Go Abroad, "Studies have shown that those who take a gap year perform better in college and are more satisfied with their careers after college." This year to restructure could be the very reason why.

The New York Times notes, "Nationally, one-third of college freshman don't return for a second year." With a gap year under their belts, students will be more likely to remain in school due to their time off to realize why they want to attend college in the first place with a plan in place for a clear direction.

3. Reboot and Refresh

After nearly their entire lives in school, teens surely could use a break. Not to loaf around lazily, but to refresh their minds and spirits, weigh their options, and reboot and recharge their brains for some of the most intense learning experiences they'll ever have.

As The New York Times puts it, "What if college freshman arrived on campus not burnt out from having been 'excellent sheep' in high school, but instead refreshed, focused and prepared to take full advantage of the rich resources and opportunities colleges have to offer?"

As long as their minds remain stimulated and the teens are doing something productive during this year, they'll remain school-ready yet with a newfound eagerness to get back to class with a mind ready to absorb new knowledge like a sponge.

4. Do Something Impactful

Along with taking time to grow personally and take some well-needed time for reflection and relaxation, a year off can become a time for making a difference in the world. Teens can use this year to volunteer, work with kids or the elderly, help their families make money, or something else that involves a giving mentality.

This "do good" notion will not only aid those in need but can impact the future goals for the teen. As per Go Abroad, "Maybe volunteering would fire you up with a passion for public health and you'll go pre-med in college. Maybe you'll realize that what you actually love is one-on-one mentoring, and you'll return home to join a mentoring organization to work with local kids."

Additionally, the work done can be used towards college credit or fulfill certain college-recommended or obligatory criteria. A win-win all around. Check out some gap year programs that can get any teen ready for a year to remember.

If you're a college-bound teen or a parent of one, this "gap" year could be a game changer. Consider the positives before diving head-first into freshman year. One year can mean many much more productive years to come.

PayPath
Follow Us on

Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.