Spring is upon us, which means that it’s time to contemplate whether a Gap Year is in order! Many kids feel that they need to move right on to college, but I encourage you to think about the potential benefits of taking a break before college. There is no rush to head to college, and most colleges will allow students to defer for a year so that they can have a gap experience.
There are several reasons why taking a Gap Year could be a great idea. First, many students need a break from academics. School has been incredibly hard for most students the past few years thanks to Covid. Many high schoolers are still dealing with remote learning, or they’re dealing with side effects of remote learning (AP classes can be super hard and intense if the preparatory classes weren’t too demanding or well taught). Second, many students just feel tired, and they may need to do something completely different in order to rejuvenate and “do college” well. Some students may be experiencing mental health issues, such as high anxiety or depression, that make transitioning to college especially tricky. Taking some extra time to bring mental health concerns under control is often a wise idea. And finally, research shows that students who take Gap Years return to college more focused and motivated, with a clearer idea of why they are going to college.
There are a multitude of options out there for Gap Years. Take a look at the Gap Year Association’s website first: https://www.gapyearassociation.org/. They have accredited many of the programs listed on their website. For international gap years, be sure to check out Sea|Mester for time sailing a boat on the seas, Rustic Pathways and Where There Be Dragons for transformative travel experiences, and WOOOF if you’d like to work on a farm. For domestic experiences, check out CityYear if you’d like to work in a school in a high-need area, American University Gap Program if you’d like to intern at a DC organization or congressional office, the High Mountain Institute if you’d like to connect with nature in the West, or the National Park Service if you’d like to do hands-on work to preserve and protect our natural heritage. So many options!!
When you’re planning a Gap Year, be sure to consider the following:
What is your vision? Do you want your Gap Year to be domestic or international? Do you want to learn a language? How rugged and adventurous do you want to be?
How much independence do you want?
What level of structure is provided?
What kind of supervision is provided?
Can any coursework be transferred to college?
What are their safety / emergency protocols?
How does the program measure success?
When you are doing your research, see if you can speak to people who have actually done the programs. And be sure to trust your instincts. Does something not sound quite right? Too good to be true? Listen to all that. Taking a Gap Year can be hugely beneficial, but you want to be sure that you’re finding the right program.
And remember that a more cost effective, and perhaps more valuable, Gap Year option is finding a job for a year. Work as a tutor at Mathnasium. Work at a local cafe, restaurant, or shop. Jobs can often clarify what we like to do and what we don’t, and they can help us remember why a college degree can be an important milestone in our lives.
I help students and their families navigate the college admissions process. I empower students to figure out who they are and where they belong, and I provide structure, insight, and enthusiasm as we find colleges that are the best fit academically, socially, and financially. Contact me at email@example.com for a 30 minute complimentary session to learn more!