A Gap Year is the year between high school and college in which students take on learning challenges, but one’s that are beyond the classroom. Gap Year programs or self-initiatives are perfect for students who have a lot of interests and want to take the time to explore them. Gap Years are probably not best for students who could become easily distracted or bored and who do better with a schedule around them.
There are opportunities for work, travel and learning that can help students really find themselves, understand what self-reliance is, and begin making connections on their journey through adulthood. Many programs like AmeriCorps or Teach for America offer an experience along with funding for future study, making it an excellent choice for students who are fairly certain of the path they might want to take.
There are volunteer opportunities available to work and live in a foreign country where students not only gain valuable practical skills, but also pick up new languages and cultural awareness. Idealistic students might find international volunteer work to be the perfect in-road for future humanitarian work. And, truth be told, they will learn much which they might not learn in the safety of a freshman year at college experience.
Colleges and universities look approvingly upon the initiative that students take in exploring Gap Year opportunities. The students generally mature during such experiences and can bring a little something extra to the college. Employers also look favorably upon Gap Year experiences, and know that they are looking at a candidate who has real work experiences behind them.
For students who are self-directed and have a plan for their post-high school years, starting right away with a Gap Year program that presents itself as a learning challenge, work experience, and a travel opportunity can be the key to engagement in adult responsibilities. Likewise, for students who are quite capable but lack confidence, these experiences can instill the type of confidence that will tip the scale for success in college.
Most importantly, however, is that a Gap Year has to be planned for. Planning should start in the spring semester, beginning with researching of opportunities and application requirements for programs. Speaking with guidance counselors or teachers of subjects that interest the student can be a great way to get the ball rolling.