High school students are under enormous pressure both academically and emotionally. Many students are experiencing burnout and aren’t ready to begin college just a few months after high school graduation. Taking a gap year between high school and college is commonplace in the UK and is slowly becoming a more talked about option among US high school students.
Studies show that college students who participated in a gap year experience have higher retention rates and earn higher GPAs than those who enter college directly after high school. Over 300 colleges and universities have formal policies to accommodate students who want to delay admissions and participate in a gap experience. Middlebury College, Tufts University, Colorado College and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill are just a few top colleges and universities that support students’ decisions to defer admissions. Students are encouraged to apply to college during their senior year of high school and then request deferred admissions once accepted.
I recently attended a gap year seminar at the IECA National Conference in Baltimore. Ethan Knight (Founder of American Gap Association), Sarah Persha (Founder of Pacia Life) and Holly Bull (President of Center for Interim Programs) led the colloquium. Ethan Knight began the session by stating that there are many benefits to a gap year (or semester): “to deepen practical, professional and personal awareness.” Students who participate in gap programs consistently report:
- Personal growth
- Self confidence
- Better communication skills
- Increased independence and maturity
- Thirst for knowledge and formal education
- Development of new skill sets through internships and/or employment
Gap year experiences vary in length and price. Students may choose to participate in a gap program, a self-governed experience and/or opt to seek employment. Most students participate in a combination of experiences. Holly Bull suggests that students begin with a structured gap program domestically or internationally, during the first several months. Then she encourages students to move towards a self-governed experience during the second half of their gap year. Examples of self-directed experiences are internships, EMT and yoga instructor certifications. Bull urges all students to hold a paying job before entering college. Paid employment not only helps defray the cost of the gap experience but it also teaches them new skills and responsibility.
A travel component is often part of the gap experience. According to Ethan Knight, “nearly 70-percent of students who travel during their gap year develop the travel bug and choose to study abroad during college too.” Although international gap programs continue to be the most popular, domestic gap programs are growing in number. Some gap programs have both a domestic and an international component.
Students sometimes need to resist the urge to follow the crowd and do what’s best for them. If you think a gap year may be right for you or your son/daughter, contact Admissions on Track.
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