Discover Pathwaze Blog

Oh the Infamous Gap year : Myths vs. Facts

How about a gap year? There are many misconceptions about these programs, here are some facts.

MYTH #1: Gappers take longer to graduate from college ( #1 misconception).

FACT: The average time to graduation for “gappers” is 4 years! The national average is 5+ years. By the way, the average cost of changing a major is $45K. Gappers change their majors less.

MYTH # 2: Their college GPA will suffer because they are out of the “rigor and discipline of school”.

FACT: Colleges are seeing gappers as more focused, motivated, mature and broader thinkers.  They have an expanded world-view and are more adaptable.

MYTH #3: It’s a full year and I could lose my spot in college.

FACT: Nope, gap programs can range from a few weeks to a full year or more. Most colleges will allow applicants to retain their spot and delay their start date (always check with the schools).

MYTH #4: It’s VERY expensive.

FACT: No need to break the bank. Gap year costs can range from zero to several thousand dollars. There are even options to ‘make’ money: non-profit grants, scholarships, corporate support, or ministries.

MYTH #5: Gappers are less apt to go to college.

FACT: 77% of gappers stated it helped them find their purpose in life and 59% said it helped  them determine what to study and were motivated to get their degrees.

Here’s a great source of information about gap years –


Does your college pick meet your financial fitness?

Now it is important to utilize two important resources to vet your student’s “Best Fit” college list for “Financial Fit”. As a reminder, universities are deemed “Best Fit” due to offering a location, major, activities and many preferences that match what the student is looking for in a college experience. Every school on this list should be vetted for “Financial Fit”!

“Financial Fit” can be easily assessed by utilizing the federally mandated Cost of Attendance (COA) and the Net Price Calculator (NPC) posted on the website of each of the colleges of interest.

The COA clearly lists the cost of tuition, books, supplies, and board.

After reviewing the COA, go the colleges NPC site and fill out this document completely. The NPC varies from school to school, but most ask families about their adjusted gross income, number of students in college, amount of family members and sometimes GPA/Test Scores to establish potential merit aid. The information requested is used to give an idea of what your particular student will pay to attend that institution.  (Just a quick disclaimer, some school’s NPC are more detailed and accurate than others. NPC is designed to provide a general idea of what the cost of that school would be to your family; however, is not an offer of financial aid.)

Now that you are able to assess whether or not you will receive financial aid and how much a school will cost your family, let’s discuss merit scholarships.

Merit scholarships are based on a student’s academic performance. When a student applies to a university they are generally put directly into the merit scholarship pool. If a student is accepted, merit scholarships and the admissions offer are usually presented at the same time. In addition to the NPC, a family can go onto the financial aid page to review if the university offers any merit scholarships and what GPA and test scores it takes to qualify. If their website does not show anything, we recommend a phone call to the financial aid department to clarify.

Since colleges change their merit aid offers year to year, there is no magic way to search this information with any confidence. If your family uses the FAFSA4Caster and vets the colleges on your student’s “Best Fit List” using the Cost of Attendance (COA), Net Price Calculator (NPC) and the school’s Financial Aid website tools you will be well on your way to understanding what colleges are deemed a “Financial Fit”.

Determining your “Financial Fit” during the college choice decision

Finances are a strong component in any college choice decision, this is  referred to as “Financial Fit”. While researching colleges, many students and families forget to take the financial aspect fully into consideration.  Unfortunately, the student may end up being accepted to a school which the family cannot afford without financial hardship. This is a situation which can be totally avoided given the right set of tools.  Discover Pathwaze would like to supply families with these resources in order to allow you to make informed decision.

The starting point to navigate “Financial Fit” is to go to the FAFSA4caster (http:////   The FAFSA4caster gives you a free early estimate of your eligibility for federal student aid and establishes an initial Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).  The EFC is used in the student financial aid process in the United States to determine an applicant’s eligibility for need-based federal student aid, and in many cases, state and institutional (college) aid.  The FAFSA4caster is considered the less detailed version of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) but will provide a decently accurate view of the amount of Federal Aid your family qualification.  FAFSA is now open for 2018-1019.    

Once you have completed this document, if your EFC is under $11,000 your family would most likely qualify for federal aid in a large capacity.  This financial aid support would be offered in the form of grants, work study and subsidized loans (interest free until your student graduates).  However, if your EFC is between $11,000-$40,000/year your family will be in the category of qualifying for some federal aid in the form of grants, work study and subsidized loans, but would have to supplement the cost of college with merit and outside scholarships.  Finally, if your EFC is over $40,000/year then your family would most likely not qualify for any federal aid and must rely solely on unsubsidized loans (interest starts accruing immediately), family contributions, and merit/outside scholarships.

Now that you have established your family’s EFC, you can start being more school specific.  Most students have a list of schools which are considered “Best Fit”. These colleges are deemed “Best Fit” due to offering a location, major, activities and many preferences which match what the student is looking for in a college experience.   Every school on this list should be vetted for “Financial Fit”.  

In our next blog, Discover Pathwaze will explain how to vet specific schools for “Financial Fit”; as well as, how to locate merit aid and outside scholarships.

Stay Tuned…


Know Thyself

What I wish my younger self knew (Part 1)

Dear Younger me,


Know what you’re good at. I mean really good at. And please don’t say “I don’t know” or worse “everything”. If you need help in this area, there are so many great assessments and discovery tools out there. Some are free, some are costly, and then find a mentor, coach, trusting partner, who is unbiased to help you muddle through it. Once you have some direction, use that critical information and figure out what jobs, careers, and hobbies your strengths connect best with.

As important, know your weaknesses. Remembering always, those weaknesses are actually strengths in other areas. These will be the things that could get you fired if you’re not careful. They’ll definitely hamper your promotions and advancements in certain jobs. I like to say, know them and then “buffer” them with a more balanced approach. Mary, for you specifically, younger self, know you are super social. Which is great in many jobs / careers, and it’s going to bite you in the rear when it comes to getting the less desirable tasks done. While you are socializing, making great connections, closing deals, solving problems with people, you need to remember to stop and finish up your to-do list!

So, dear reader, what are YOU good at? Are you aligned with a job, career or hobbies that supports your gifts and talents? If not, why? We are here to help.

Author’s note. The picture is of our Creative – Josh K when he was younger… he truly knows himself and will do just about anything to have a career in his gifted space of Art and Graphics. I’m inspired by that every day!

Discover Pathwaze is a career consulting company.

We focus on three areas: Young adults and Career transitioners. We support the college process from selecting the best fit colleges to the application process.

We provide career services from resume creation to preparing for salary discussions.

Listen to a podcast by Discover Pathwaze on “How to Raise a Maverick”