More and more, U.S. teens are considering their options before jumping right from high school to college. Rather than simply choosing among colleges, many of today’s high school seniors are also beginning to defer the college experience – usually for a year. This “Gap Year” – which has been a standard practice in the U.K. for years – is growing rapidly in popularity here in the U.S. Experience has shown that 90% of students taking a Gap Year will enroll in a four year college, and be more focused and ready to embrace college learning.
See three students talk about their Gap Year experiences: Belmont High School Panel Discussion, January 11, 2018
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a great candidate for taking a year off between high school and college, or during college:
- Would you like to take some time before or during college to “discover” who you are, or what really matters to you?
- Do you think taking a year off the “academic cycle” would give you more focus and energy to re-enter a formal, rigorous learning environment?
- Does the idea of learning outside the typical classroom interest you?
- Are you interested in becoming more self-reliant and building life skills before college?
- Do you feel you live in a “bubble”, isolated from the world that most other people experience every day?
- Have you had a desire to immerse yourself in learning a new culture and language?
- Does helping others in a less fortunate community or circumstances interest you?
- Do you want to engage with people and surroundings that are different, challenge your beliefs, and push outside your comfort zone?
There are many types of Gap Year experiences. Some teens stay close to home. Some travel the world. Some combine work, service and travel. There is no formula for a “perfect” Gap Year. However, it is important for students to make thoughtful choices, so their experience helps them grow as citizens, develop their passions, and become better thinkers.
These articles spotlight the challenges many of our teens face today:
When a College Student Comes Home to Stay (NY Times)
On Leave: College Wellness, Mental Health And Not Returning To Campus (NPR – on demand audio from 11/27/2018 – specific segment on gap years starts at 33:00)
Anxiety, Depression and the Modern Adolescent (TIME Magazine)
The following articles provide a good overview of the growing popularity of Gap Years:
Five Myths of Gap Years (Belmont Citizen-Herald)
Teens, Anxiety and Gap Years (Belmont Citizen-Herald)
Top 5 reasons guidance counselors recommend gap years (EF Blog Post)
Rethink the Gap (Harvard Ed Magazine)
Is taking a gap year before college a good idea? (Boston Globe)
How Taking a Gap Year Can Shape Your Life (NY Times)
For first person accounts of the impact of a Gap Year:
This article does a great job explaining the value of internships, even if they are unpaid:
Three Cheers for Internships (Wall Street Journal)