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Jacob Rollins (Gap Year)

Jacob came to us in the fall of his senior year. His parents were concerned over his exceptionally driven approach to school. He was a very strong student at a prestigious independent school. His junior year, Jacob took three AP courses, including French and physics. He was an editor at the school newspaper and an active member of the school's film club. He volunteered twice a week at a tutoring center where he helped younger students with their studies. To top it off, Jacob was also a varsity soccer and tennis player.

Jacob's father was himself an accomplished man. A graduate of an Ivy League college, he ran a successful import/export company and was often away on business. In fact, because he was in Asia at the time, he wasn't able to attend our introductory meeting with Jacob and his mother. Mrs. Rollins told me over the phone that Jacob often spent sleepless nights studying for tests and doing his homework. He put so much pressure on himself that she was worried that he would fall apart. Already, Jacob was beginning to miss school because he was having trouble getting out of bed. His late nights and the stress of taking on the demands of the coming day were sometimes too much for him.

Jacob presented himself as a solid all-around teenager. He was good-looking, articulate and engaging. However, what was most striking about him was his drive and insistence on being in control. He was guarded when asked questions about his personal self but very vocal when he spoke about his goals in life. Though he acted older, he was very young for his class, turning seventeen in January of his senior year.

It was clear that Jacob was determined to follow in his father's footsteps and that he had the drive and the scores to make that happen. As the fall progressed, we met to work on college applications and essays. He began to talk about his interest in film. Apparently, he and some friends had started to make short movies on weekends. His favorite genre was horror because of the special effects. Jacob also liked to shoot documentary-style at home, recording family gatherings during holidays, for example. It was obvious that film had become a true passion.

Jacob was accepted to his father's alma mater early action. That day, he sent us an email saying he was ecstatic. We congratulated him and told him how wonderful it was to have worked with him these past few months. Later that winter, Mr. Rollins called. He was very concerned Jacob who had missed a week of school. This was not due to "senioritis". Apparently, Jacob had not left his bed. His parents sent him to a therapist who told them that Jacob had been pushing himself too hard these past years. To protect himself against the enormous stress he was feeling, he was shutting down. His father was devastated, saying that he only wanted the best for his son and that he knew Jacob was just trying to make his dad proud.

A few weeks later, Jacob came in. He had decided to reduce his course load and continue to see his therapist. It was at that point that we started talking about alternatives for the following year. Jacob was young and had already been accepted to college. There was, therefore, no good reason for him to rush into things. We talked about the idea of taking a gap year between high school and college which would allow him to take a break from academics, work on some of his issues and explore some of his interests outside school.

At first, Jacob was concerned about his college's reaction to his delayed enrollment, but he was reassured when I told him that schools tend to look very favorably on gap year s. The time off gives students a chance to mature and gain valuable world experience that they can share with their college community once they return. He was intrigued. We did some research together and found a Vermont-based film program which devised a special project for Jacob. He would spend several weeks there learning about equipment, editing and photography. Then he would pair up with a partner and travel by van to New Orleans and El Paso, TX. During their journey, they would shoot a movie or documentary.

Jacob enrolled in the program and spent two semesters filming and editing a documentary highlighting differing opinions on the "War on Terror". The following year, he attended his father's alma mater He has decided to major in film studies and minor in journalism. Half way through his junior year, Jacob came by to see us. Underneath a thick, red beard, he carried a smile that could not be missed.