By Katherine Stievater, Founder, Gap Year Solutions
When I first started in the Gap Year business, I had only a vague idea about how many U.S. students took a Gap Year, or why. I quickly learned that Gap Years are much more common in Europe, and while growing in popularity in the U.S., are still only experienced by a relative handful of students. (Small aside – my husband was just reading a novel by Ken Follett, A Dangerous Fortune, in which several of the British characters in 1868 “toured Europe for a year” between prep school and university – the original Gap Year!) The number of U.S. students taking a Gap Year was growing steadily before COVID hit us in 2020, and has at least tripled since. Based on inquiries to my firm and anecdotes from high school and independent college counselors, I expect awareness of Gap Years will continue to increase, and even more students to take advantage of this great opportunity for personal growth.
I have also come to appreciate the many benefits of Gap Years. Initially, I only knew about the experience of my son. My work to help him plan his Gap time, and the immediate benefits, prompted me to enter the field of Gap Year advising. Over time, I learned so much about the benefits from the stories of students, including my own. I thought you might enjoy hearing some of the comments from my students. These are verbatim, taken directly from their post-Gap Year surveys.
“My time during my gap year was life changing. I learned so much about the world and how to live independently. It really made me feel thankful for what I have and the journey I’ve chosen…I learned the most about having to maintain business, social life, health, and all other aspects of life. It really helped me learn balance and that you have to roll with the punches, stay optimistic, and turn losses into lessons.”
“I will be different starting college – I have become much more independent and confident in myself. At my studio I have learned so much and been able to be creative and have a hand in helping out with basically everything… I also had a lot of time to myself which gave me time to reassess what my goals were. I changed my college decision to a school that I think is a much better fit for me. It has been a wonderful experience and I am so sad it has to come to an end!”
“I’ve become more emotionally mature throughout my gap year and feel better prepared for the mental challenges that come with being a freshman in college. I also have a more diversified skill set that will allow me to relate to new groups of people that I wouldn’t have previously…I also feel more ready for college by taking on some real world responsibilities. I’m not nervous anymore and instead feel excitement and eager anticipation for what lies ahead.”
“I’ve grown as an independent adult and will be able to tackle college with more knowledge about self-sufficiency. I loved traveling abroad, living semi-independently and developing my interest in culture and people. There were several times where social issues arose where I could have handled the situation more directly. I have grown so much from all these experiences.”
“I am different now. I have more self-confidence, maturity in my everyday life, and I have a better idea of what I want to study in college. I learned and experienced more than I ever will in school…I made amazing connections with people on my fall semester trip, learned to live independently on my road trip, and saw so many amazing cities and national parks. Basically, I have experienced more, and have a better idea of what I want to do in the future. I just feel like a more well rounded and capable individual after being so independent.”
These represent just a sampling of our student voices. Check out our Testimonials page for more including parent comments.
If you would like to learn more about helping set yourself (or your student) on a path that is truly transformational, please contact us today. We would love to hear your story!