As we continue to raise awareness and dispel many misconceptions about Gap Years, we thought it would be useful to share more answers to questions we get asked frequently by students, parents, counselors and others. We covered more topics in Part 1 of this post.
I fear my kid won’t go back to school if they take a gap year.
We used to list this as a myth, but took it off because it just doesn’t happen. The vast, vast majority of students who take Gap time will go on to college. Studies have shown that over 90% of students who defer college and take a gap year are at their college within 6 months of finishing their Gap time. Students who take Gap Years do so not because they are questioning whether they should EVER go to college – they are questioning whether it is the right TIME go to college. Students spend so much time making sure that their college is the “right fit”. The question we think they also need to ask is “is this the right time to start college?” We stress this over and over in our talks with families and schools. Most of these students just want a break from academics and WILL go on to college.
Do gappers feel out of step with peers in college when they start their freshman year?
Definitely not. Quite the opposite. Gappers arrive at school with interesting stories and experiences. It’s empowering that they have not “followed the herd”. It turns out that students who take Gap Years are actually envied by their peers when they arrive on campus. Students I speak with after the fact tell me that their peers say “that sounds so cool, what you did – I wish I had done that!” And all students starting as first years, are, well, first years! They’re all in the same boat. Students should have no fear of feeling out of step. With Gap Years becoming much better known as a legitimate post-secondary option, there is less and less stigma.
My son has some specific interests that he wants to pursue if he takes a Gap Year. Can Gap Years ever be too hard to plan because the student has narrowed things down too much?
This is a great question, because it sometimes can be true that students and their parents are really looking to hit the jackpot with the “perfect” combination of activities with just the right experiences, at just the right length of time, in just the right location, and so forth. It is important when planning Gap time that students have some solid goals, but then be flexible about how to meet them. We have worked with students who are seeking 2-3 week experiences covering incredibly specific activities with housing already built in. That can be awfully difficult to find, and sometimes the experiences just don’t exist for their age in the exact structure, timeframe and group type that they are seeking. So we encourage students to focus on their goals, and be open to different ways to meet them.
I’m totally bought in and think Gap Years are amazing and would be the right answer for my student. But what about the kid who doesn’t want to do it? How do you get them on board?
This is tricky, especially because we’re big believers in having students lead the process both of deciding to take a Gap Year, and deciding on their plan. Our best advice is to have your student speak to somebody who took a gap year to hear what it was like, how did they make the decision, and what they got out of it. Or they can talk to a Gap Year consultant such as Gap Year Solutions. We offer free consultations to help understand more about Gap Years and their benefits, and how a Gap Year can support a student’s interests and goals in broad terms. We explain the many misconceptions surrounding Gap Years, and share lots of examples of what people are doing. So many people have no idea what a gap year is in the beginning. They don’t really know what they don’t know. It helps when the parents ARE fully on board to get past their preconceptions and blockages. Parents can help students realize that a Gap Year is doable within the family’s budget, and set up some shared boundaries to create the experience. The reality though is that not every student will take a Gap Year, in fact most don’t – only 6-7% of graduated high school seniors deferred college for a Gap Year in 2021. So your student may turn out like most and decide against it.
My daughter has a fear of doing a Gap Year not knowing a soul. But I also don’t want her to cling to any of her friends who might be considering a Gap Year. Do kids ever do Gap Years together? I am hoping to direct my daughter to consider her interests and options first, and not be influenced by her friends and their choices. Thoughts?
Each Gap Year experience is completely individualized. It could be fine if it’s with a friend. For example, maybe your daughter does it with a friend first semester so she’s not unhappy and gets the most out of the experience. But then maybe by second semester, in the spring, she does something independently to experience a different level of personal growth. Some students we know have definitely traveled together. Some WWOOF’d together. One student for example hiked the Glacier National Park with his father, continued mountain climbing and skiing in the Western states before settling in Big Sky, Montana to ski and find work, and then connected with a friend to do more climbing and skiing. We know many students who meet up with friends and/or stay with relatives during part of their Gap time. There is no formula. When it comes to groups during Gap Year experiences, we tend to believe that doing something with a cohort of kids that’s not the one you know is a good thing, kind of like a steppingstone to being on your own.
Please reach out to us to learn more about why Gap Years continue to grow in popularity, and to have your specific questions answered.