Every year, more and more American students take a gap year as a transition into college. This concept is widely accepted in countries like England and Australia, and now Americans are embracing it too. College advisors, teachers, and even universities, notably Harvard and Princeton, are discussing the benefits of this option and encouraging students not to go to college right away!
The purpose of this blog post is to: 1) give you a better understanding of what a gap year is, its benefits and how it fits with college, 2) the options available, and 3) how to make it meaningful. By the end, you should have a good sense of whether or not it may be the right path for you (or your child).
Let’s start by exploring the basics:
What Is A Gap Year?
It is any structured period of time that is intentionally taken away from formal education and/or employment to engage in a meaningful activity. Typically, this is done before proceeding to the next phase of life. So, the natural break between high school and college is a perfect time for a gap year!
The name is not what it seems as it is neither a GAP nor a YEAR. “Gap” implies emptiness and this is not a time to sit home on your couch playing video games. Rather, it is a fulfilling time to do something meaningful, structured, and constructive that is aligned with your strengths, values, and passions. This includes volunteering, interning, being immersed in a culture, developing a skill, taking non-academic courses, and more! The typical duration is nine months, the same as two semesters of college, though it can be as short as two months or as long as two years.
Who Takes A Gap Year?
It can benefit anyone but it might not be the right choice for everyone! This means that there is no right or wrong person to take a gap year. Academically high achieving students take gap years, and so do struggling students. Most students who take a gap year feel “burnt out” academically, are not sure what they want to study in college, need some time to mature, are not excited about their college options, and/or were granted spring admissions.
When it comes down to it, the ideal gap year student has an open mind, a willingness to step out of their comfort zone, and a desire to have a transformational experience.
Is A Gap Year Right For You (Or Your Child)?
Here are some questions to consider:
1. Do you feel burned out?
2. Are you feeling unprepared for college?
3. Do you want practical, real-world experience?
4. Are you unsure of what you’d like to study in college?
5. Do you want to pursue your passions and develop your strengths?
If you answered YES to one or more of the above, a gap year may be right for you.
By Deborah Friedman, Gap Year Coach