Taking a gap year is an increasingly popular choice among college-bound high school seniors. From local and international community service or trekking through the wilderness, to residential internships, gap year programs give teens the opportunity to find direction and purpose before entering the college environment. Students who take gap years are able to pursue their existing passions, discover new interests, and challenge themselves in ways that often result in increased self-awareness, maturity, and confidence. The gap year enables teens to take a break, as it were, from the intense academic climate of school and allows them to truly be ready and enthused for college when it begins.
Benefits of Gap Years
Postponement of education may seem risky to some, but in a study of Harvard students who took gap years, nearly all participants indicated that they would repeat the experience if given a “do-over.” And this trend definitely extends beyond the renowned walls of Harvard Yard! In Europe gap years are a long-established practice, and the number of students taking gap years is on the rise all over the U.S. as well. According to the American Gap Association, 40,000 teens took gap years in 2013, a nearly 20 percent increase since 2006. Although gap years can be as structured or unstructured as the student likes, the wide variety of available programs means that many teens are choosing to custom-tailor their gap year experience through already-established options.
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Gap Year Fairs
Gap year fairs are a great way for students to become familiar with the range of programs out there. Some of the most informative are offered by USA Gap Year Fairs, an organization that connects gap year programs, high school students and their parents, college counselors, and other people and groups relevant to the world of the gap year. Representatives from a number of programs are on hand to provide overviews and answer questions.
Each fair is opened with a talk by a gap year expert who provides an intimate perspective while simultaneously offering a broad overview on the entire gap year experience. Past talks have addressed a range of topics; examples include the impact of gap years on college admissions, long-term advantages to taking a gap year, and gap year pros and cons. These speakers are also great resources for students who may have questions on how to select the appropriate program, or are wondering if a gap year is the right choice for them.
The fairs are offered at high schools in over 30 cities across the U.S. during the months of January and February. With over 30 programs specializing in music, performing and visual arts, experiential learning, outdoor education, ecological conservation, sailing, leadership, foreign language, travel and working abroad, academics, community development, social responsibility, mountain sports, and more, in attendance, there is sure to be something for everyone. Programs include:
Dynamy Internship Year, Thinking Beyond Borders, Maximo Nivel, RIDGE Mountain Academy, AFS USA, The Leap, Where There Be Dragons, Expedition Education Institute, Aspire by API, The High Mountain Institute Gap, Africa and Asia Venture, Visitoz, Enroute Consulting, Amigos de las Americas, Adventures Cross Country, Art History Abroad, International Studies Abroad, Youth International, Youth for Understanding, Leadership Exchange, Summit Adventure, Interlochen Arts Academy, EF International Language Centers, Center for Interim Programs, National Outdoor Leadership School, LEAPNOW Transforming Education, Winterline Global Skills Program, Carpe Diem Education, Twin Eagles Wilderness School, Gap Force, Outward Bound, CIEE, Eastman Immersion, Sea|mester, Rustic Pathways, Global Works, First Abroad & Academy at Watkinson.
Host cities include:
CA: Berkley, Los Altos, San Anselmo, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara; CO: Boulder, Denver; CT: Fairfield, West Hartford; GA: Atlanta; IL: Chicago; MA: Andover, Boston; MD: Rockville; MI: Ann Arbor; MN: Minneapolis; NC: Charlotte; NH: Hanover; NJ: Princeton; NY: Long Island, New York City, Scarsdale; OR: Portland; PA: Philadelphia; TX: Austin, Houston; VA: Aldie, Fairfax; VT: South Burlington; WA: Seattle; Washington DC.