February: A World of Gap Year Exploration

February is a month of holidays and celebrations

February is a month of holidays and celebrations: Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Chinese New Year’s (Year of the Ox-occurring every 12 years), Black History Month. All these are worthy and historical holidays. 

There is a new celebration worth a study in the Gap Year world is celebrating Gap Year Exploration Month. 

What is a Gap Year? 

According to the Gap Year Association (gapyearassociation.org), 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.” 90% of students who take a Gap Year go on to enroll in a four year institution within one year of completing their Gap Year. This intentional year offers this springboard into university, it also provides a student with clarity and focus on what students wish to study in university. The GPA is much improved as well as a better trajectory for completing studies within four years (completing university within four years is a massive money saver). 

Long range research is just beginning to launch on Gap Year and its benefits. From research conducted at University of California/Los Angeles, Karl Haigler found the two most common reasons for taking a Gap Year were: 

  1. Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school, and
  2. The desire to know more about themselves. 

There is more research cited on the Gap Year Association’s website. 

Speaking from observation from  this most unusual year and historical year (that truly none of us wanted to experience), students may be hopeful about not learning online or hybrid for post secondary options and want a change from traditional education. From my virtual meetings with Gap Year providers and consultants, I am seeing more students hoping for a change of venue, that is, a change of traditional academic platform. 

Gap Year programs allow students to step out of their comfort zones in a manner that is non threatening with a safety net there to catch the student with the ability to reflect honestly and then move forward. There are a variety of programs to choose from that vary from wilderness to technology, from sports, language acquisition, learning to farm,  to volunteering in developing countries. Yes, COVID has had these programs pivot to accommodate various health regulations, but a solid Gap Year can be accomplished. 

A way to learn more about Gap Year during the month of February is to do a virtual Gap Year Fair: 

USA Gap Year Fairs – sponsored by Go Overseas

Goverseas.com has a full schedule of fairs for the months of February through early March. 

Gap Year Association is a website that is full of wonderful information about Gap Years including programs holding accreditation (high safety accreditation). 

Gap Years are not meant to hold students back, they are meant to catapult students forward. Universities such as University of North Carolina, Harvard, Princeton and  more are believers in Gap Years, some universities build in Gap Years into their curriculum. Gap Years make students stronger, more focused, build confidence and students build a knowledge base that is not gained in a traditional trajectory to university. 

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