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.

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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.

My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.

In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.

We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.

I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.

One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.

Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:

1. Betting has never been easier

Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.

2. The biggest selection of horse races out there

If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.

3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet

Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.

4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button

With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!

5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating

Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.

With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.

TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.

The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.

UPDATE: The biggest derby in horse racing is THIS WEEKEND. Get in on the action with your $200 risk-free bet!

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