College Support for Gappers (Part 1)

By Anna Nickerson, Babson College Class of ’22

We have written previously about general college support for Gap Years. We thought it might be useful to dig a little deeper and give examples of programs and specific support from U.S. colleges and universities for the growing Gap Year movement!

While there is general encouragement within college admissions offices for Gap Years, it is less common to hear about how schools support their students both in pursuit of the right Gap Year experience and also how Gappers can best assimilate to campus life upon their return to an academic setting. It turns out that many colleges and universities offer their own Gap Year programs as well as clubs, activities, and resources to support students returning from a Gap Year.

As a leader in the study of International Relations, it should come as no surprise that Tufts University encourages students to broaden their global perspectives before stepping foot on campus. Tufts offers two programs: the Civic Semester, which sends incoming students to either China or Peru for their first semester, and the 1+4 Bridge Year, which is a more traditional Gap Year program sponsored by Tufts Tisch College of Civic Life. The Civic Semester has students on the Tufts campus for August, and then living with a local host family, studying the local language and cultural sites, and working part-time at a community organization for a semester. The 1+4 Bridge Year emphasizes volunteering and community service in Ecuador, India, Nicaragua or Brazil. Upon students’ return, Tufts hosts a retreat which enables all 1+4 students to reflect, connect with one another, and integrate their year abroad into their college experience.

Florida State University (FSU) highly encourages their incoming freshmen to take Gap Years. Through the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement, FSU offers the Gap Year Fellows program to which admitted FSU applicants may apply in January each year. The Fellowship provides up to $5,000 to help fund a student’s Gap Year, which must include engaging in “service for a minimum of six months in a cross-cultural setting”. The program allows students to become a part of a greater community through structured group activities, team building and reflection upon their arrival to campus. The fellowship also works in conjunction with the FSU Center for Leadership and Social Change and other on-campus organizations so that students can continue to build on their Gap Year experience in college and beyond. Read first hand accounts of Gap Year Fellows here and watch video here.

Duke University launched its Duke Gap Year Program in 2018, and has now fully built out a website including tracking the locations of its students. According to DGYP, “Students accepted to the Duke Gap Year Program may receive between $5,000 and $15,000 towards the cost of their chosen gap year program, based on their gap year plans and financial need. If a student does not need funding, they are still welcome to apply to members of the cohort.” DGYP participants choose their own experience, the only requirement being that they enroll at Duke the following Fall.

Other schools such as Princeton University, American University and Elon University also offer their own unique programs. Princeton’s Novogratz Bridge Year accepts a select number of students to partake in a 9-month, tuition-free volunteer program in Bolivia, China, India, Indonesia or Senegal before freshman year. American University’s AU Gap Program takes place in the heart of Washington DC, where students can earn up to seven college credits and intern with an organization in DC. Elon University offers the Global Pathfinders Program for a select group of new students. The Global Pathfinders spend their first semester at University College Dublin. They take courses about Ireland, complete the core Global Experience course with an Elon faculty member, and participate in “engaged learning” by using the city of Dublin and surrounding areas to explore, learn, and grow. Upon return to campus in January, students gather to process and reflect upon how the experience impacted them.

It seems as though universities around the country are seriously stepping up their Gap Year game. So, how are schools supporting their students post-Gap Year? For the answer, tune in to the GYS Blog in March for Part 2 of this post!

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