College Applications are complete, acceptances are in, deferrals and unfortunately, there may be a few denials as well. The college application ‘season’ is an intense process, as well as high school these days. Students do not have the time that there once was to explore all the options to do once was available to them beyond the walls of high school. Therefore, a Gap Year option may be a wonderful option.
So, it is a great thing that Gap Year Fair Season is once again upon us. Launching the start of January, lasting through mid-March, USA Gap Year Fair travels through about 40 cities with a variety of programs connecting parents, students and educational professionals with Gap Year program representatives.
Now is the time to be thinking if a Gap Year is right for your student, or if you are a student if it is right for you. According to The Gap Association, the definition of a Gap Year is: A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.
Each person has their own unique Gap Year. No two are alike. One person may travel the world, while another may stay close to home to earn a bit of extra cash to ease the burden of tuition costs. Each Gapper, however, may leave their experience with similar outcomes.
In addition, a Gap Year offers the
- Ability to broaden one’s horizons and increase one’s confidence in situations
- Opportunity to meet new people
- Opportunity to volunteer, or continue to volunteer, have a paid job and put
- money towards college
- Opportunity to learn a new language or continue to perfect a language one is
- currently learning as well as immerse oneself in culture
- Opportunity to re-energize after an intense high school experience
- Experience to experiment wisely with a taste of independence
How Do Universities Look at These Experiences?
Universities are looking at these experiences in a positive manner, as long as Gap Years are productive and well planned. Many programs offer volunteer work abroad, while others might offer apprenticeships, the ability to study art, home stays, and language course work. There are hundreds, if not thousands of options.
Planning a Gap Year
Planning a Gap Year is an exciting challenge because of the wonderful program offerings. Some students plan their year in thirds, some by semesters. Sometimes, the first third is within a structured program, with a bit less structure the second portion and a bit of freedom the last portion of the Gap Year as more confidence is acquired. Other programs offer college credit, but one must be careful here, as once too much credit is gained; a student may become a transfer student and may have to start the university process over.
I have had several students taking Gap Years or Gap Semesters from an art program in Florence, to Where There Be Dragons semester in South America (she was an American student who completed her high school studies in Australia in December), another student who did medical volunteer work and a home stay with a family in South America and learned Spanish. Finding a Gap Year is an extraordinary process. There are so many options and reasons why a student takes a Gap Year, that it is a time consuming process and one that is indeed a thoughtful process.
Gap Year Resources
There are a lot of organizations offering a variety of options for many types of students. The best thing to do is to attend one of the USA Gap Year Fairs if possible. They are traveling the country this January, February, and the first part of March. If unable to attend, peruse their website to look at details of their program: usagapfairs.org along with looking at The Gap Year Association to find programs that have met specific safety standards.Finally, it helps to hire a professional to assist with the process.
Outcomes of Gap Year
It is clear that having a Gap Year allows for tremendous growth and development. The soft research indicates that students returning from a Gap Year will:
- Be more focused on finding major
- Have the ability to complete university within four years.
- Gain leadership qualities appreciated by universities, students and parents
- Maintain higher GPA
- Have more confidence
How to Defer College and University
Generally speaking, students apply to their university and then defer with admissions. Admissions usually are the go to for deferral. Remember to have a good plan in place, they will ask for this. In addition, students will most likely have to put down deposits in order to keep their place in school. Not all schools do these deferrals in the same manner, so what one schools says, another may have a different process.
Schools Not Allowing Deferrals
Keep in mind that there are some universities not allowing deferrals, so double check your university. For example, the University of California system and the Cal State system at the time of this blog do not allow Gap Year Deferral, nor does University of Washington. Gap Year Association web- site for further details. Many of these schools allow for a Gap Year after a year enrolment within their system.
Gap Programs Offering Credit
Be aware that some programs offer college credit. As previously stated, some schools willingly take this credit (state schools often will take this credit), be sure to check with each school. Private schools often have the caveat that no credits may be accrued while on a Gap Year).
USA Gap Year Schedule in Denver and Boulder, Colorado
Coming up this January, USA Gap Year Fairs will be launching from East Coast to West Coast so a variety of programs can display what their program offerings. Registration is free, entrance is free, so it can’t hurt to look and explore options: usagapyearfairs.org/fairs
Remember: Each school may have a different policy regarding a Gap Year, along with the fact that each student may have a different reason for taking a Gap Year. Students need to look carefully at options available, similar to choosing a university. There is a personal fit and a good match. It takes research, thought and time.
For those in Denver, our two fairs are February 28 at New Vista High School- 6-8 pm, March 2 at Littleton High School – 1- 4 pm High School.