001

Table of Contents
 
Praise
Title Page
Copyright Page
Foreword
Acknowledgements
Dedication
Introduction
 
PART 1 - Fundamentals of the Gap Year
 
CHAPTER 1 - The Gap Year: It’s Not a Vacation
 
HISTORY OF THE GAP YEAR
OTHER NAMES FOR GAP YEAR
WHAT TYPES OF THINGS DO STUDENTS DO ON A GAP YEAR?
WHY GO ON A GAP YEAR?
THE BENEFITS OF A GAP YEAR
WHY NOW? WHY NOT AFTER COLLEGE?
WHY THE GAP YEAR IS BENEFICIAL TO STUDENTS TODAY
 
CHAPTER 2 - College as the Ultimate Goal: What Do Deans of College Admissions ...
 
COLLEGES ARE LEADING THE WAY
WORKING WITH YOUR DEAN’S OFFICE: GETTING A DEFERRAL
WHEN THE GAP YEAR ISN’T YOUR FIRST CHOICE
CAN THE GAP YEAR HELP YOU GET INTO A BETTER COLLEGE?
WILL THE GAP YEAR ADD MORE PRESSURE TO ALREADY STRESSED STUDENTS?
ADMISSIONS DIRECTORS SPEAK OUT ON THE GAP YEAR
HOW TO APPLY TO COLLEGE DURING A GAP YEAR
PARENTAL WORRIES
APPLYING FROM THE ROAD: WILL YOU HAVE BETTER LUCK THIS TIME?
 
CHAPTER 3 - The Postgraduate Year: A Bridge Between H igh School and Col lege
 
WHAT IS THE POSTGRADUATE YEAR?
HISTORY OF THE POSTGRADUATE YEAR
THE ATHLETIC POSTGRADUATE YEAR
FINDING THE RIGHT POSTGRADUATE YEAR PROGRAM
THE POSTGRADUATE YEAR ADMISSIONS PROCESS
IMPLICATIONS OF PURSUING A POSTGRADUATE YEAR
THE POSTGRADUATE YEAR IN GREAT BRITAIN
 
CHAPTER 4 - Financing Your Gap Year
 
FREE GAP YEAR PROGRAMS
LOW-COST GAP YEAR PROGRAMS
FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID FOR GAP YEAR PROGRAMS
VOLUNTEER GAP YEAR PROGRAMS AND TAX DEDUCTIONS
FUNDRAISING FOR THE GAP YEAR
WORKING TO FUND THE GAP YEAR
GAP YEAR SCHOLARSHIPS
EDUCATIONAL LOANS
FINANCIAL AID GAP YEAR OVERLAP FOR SIBLINGS
WHY DO YOU HAVE TO PAY A FEE TO VOLUNTEER?
INSURANCE FOR THE GAP YEAR
 
CHAPTER 5 - The Year of National Service: A Free Gap Year Option
 
THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: BORN TO SERVE
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S CALL TO SERVICE
AMERICORPS: CHANGING LIVES, CHANGING AMERICA
NATIONAL CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS
MAKING A CASE FOR A GAP YEAR IN NATIONAL SERVICE
 
CHAPTER 6 - The Gap Year Decision: Is It Right for You?
 
CONSIDER WHERE YOU ARE ON YOUR PERSONAL EDUCATIONAL PATH
RESEARCHING AND EVALUATING GAP YEAR PROGRAMS
RESEARCH METHODS: HOW TO FIND AND EVALUATE PROGRAMS
GAP YEAR PROGRAM DIRECTORS’ VIEWS ON CHOOSING THE RIGHT PROGRAM
TAKING THE PLUNGE: COMMITTING TO A GAP YEAR
 
PART 2 - Directory of Gap Year Programs
Volunteer Programs: Multiple Countries
 
AFRICA & ASIA VENTURE
AIDE ABROAD
AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE
AMIGOS DE LAS AMERICAS
A BROADER VIEW VOLUNTEERS CORP
COSMIC VOLUNTEERS
CROSS CULTURAL SOLUTIONS
ECO VOLUNTEER UP
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING INTERNATIONAL
FOUNDATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
GAP GURU
GLOBAL CITIZENS NETWORK
GLOBAL CROSSROAD
GLOBAL ROUTES
GLOBAL SERVICE CORPS
GLOBAL VOLUNTEERS
I-TO-I
INSTITUTE FOR FIELD RESEARCH EXPEDITIONS
LATTITUDE
LONGE DOMINICA
ORPHANAGE SUPPORT SERVICES
PRO WORLD
PROJECTS ABROAD
QUEST OVERSEAS
STUDENTS PARTNERSHIP WORLDWIDE
VOLUNTEERS FOR PEACE
WLS INTERNATIONAL
 
Volunteer Programs: Africa
 
AFRICAN GREAT LAKES INITIATIVE
AFRICAN IMPACT
AFRICAN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
AVIVA
DODWELL TRUST
INSPIRE KENYA
OCEAN RESEARCH CONSERVATION AFRICA
OPERATION CROSSROADS AFRICA
SHUMBA EXPERIENCE
 
Volunteer Programs: United States
 
AMERICORPS
CITY YEAR
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
PUBLIC ALLIES
STUDENT CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
OTHER VOLUNTEER OPTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES
 
Cultural Immersion Programs
 
ADVENTURE IRELAND
ANDEO INTERNATIONAL HOMESTAYS
AUSTRALEARN
BRIDGE YEAR
CARPE DIEM EDUCATION
CHINA QUEST
COUNCIL ON INTERNATIONAL EDUCATIONAL EXCHANGE
CULTURAL DESTINATION NEPAL
CULTURAL EMBRACE
EDUCATION FIRST MULTI-LANGUAGE YEAR
EL CASAL BARCELONA
GLOBAL CITIZEN YEAR
GLOBAL LEARNING ACROSS BORDERS
INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL ADVENTURES
INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE’S COLLEGE OF DENMARK
KIBBUTZ PROGRAM CENTER
KING’S ACADEMY
KOKROBITEY INSTITUTE
KWA MADWALA
LEAP NOW
LIVING ROUTES
MADVENTURER
MAGIC CARPET RIDES
MASA ISRAEL JOURNEY
PASSAGE INTERNATIONAL
RUSTIC PATHWAYS
SAGE: STUDIES ABROAD FOR GLOBAL EDUCATION
SOJOURNS ABROAD
SOUTHERN FRANCE YOUTH INSTITUTE
SUNRISE
THINKING BEYOND BORDERS
UP WITH PEOPLE
VENTURECO WORLDWIDE
VERMONT INTERCULTURAL SEMESTERS
WHERE THERE BE DRAGONS
WORLD LEARNING STUDY ABROAD
YOUNG JUDAEA YEAR COURSE
YOUTH INTERNATIONAL
 
Adventure Programs
 
BRITISH SCHOOLS EXPLORING SOCIETY
GLOBAL VISION INTERNATIONAL
GREENFORCE
PACIFIC CHALLENGE
RALEIGH INTERNATIONAL
TREKFORCE
 
Language Study Programs
 
AIL MADRID SPANISH LANGUAGE IMMERSION SCHOOL
AMERISPAN
CESA LANGUAGES ABROAD
LANGUAGE LINK
 
Art, Music, Theater, and Media Programs
 
ACTOR’S COLLEGE OF THEATRE AND TELEVISION
APICIUS: THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF FLORENCE
ART HISTORY ABROAD
BROWN LEDGE GAP YEAR
JOHN HALL PRE-UNIVERSITY COURSE IN VENICE
LE CORDON BLEU CULINARY INSTITUTE
LONDON SCHOOL OF SOUND
NEW YORK FILM ACADEMY
NORTHERN GAP THEATER SCHOOL
SANTA REPARATA INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF ART
STUDIO ART CENTERS INTERNATIONAL, FLORENCE
 
Sailing and Tall Ship Programs
 
BARQUE PICTON CASTLE
CLASS AFLOAT
LIVING CLASSROOMS
OCEAN CLASSROOM
ODYSSEY EXPEDITIONS
SEA/MESTER
SEA SEMESTER AT WOOD’S HOLE
SEMESTER AT SEA
WORLD OCEAN SCHOOL
 
Conservation, Environment, and Marine Life Programs
 
AUDUBON EXPEDITION INSTITUTE
BLUE VENTURES
CALIFORNIA CONSERVATION CORPS
CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERS AUSTRALIA
CORAL CAY CONSERVATION EXPEDITIONS
DOLPHIN INSTITUTE
EARTHWATCH
FRONTIER
INSTITUTE FOR CULTURAL ECOLOGY
THE LEAP
SCHOOL FOR FIELD STUDIES
WILD LANDS STUDIES
 
Outdoor and Wilderness Programs
 
CASTLE ROCK INSTITUTE
INTERNATIONAL WILDERNESS LEADERSHIP SCHOOL
NATIONAL OUTDOOR LEADERSHIP SCHOOL
OUTWARD BOUND
OUTWARD BOUND INTERNATIONAL
 
Sports Programs
 
ALTITUDE FUTURES
AMERICAN FOOTBALL AROUND THE WORLD
AUSTRALASIAN GOLF ACADEMY
FLYING FISH
GLOBAL SPORTS EXPERIENCE
IMG ACADEMIES
SKI LE GAP
TICKET TO RIDE
TRAVELLERS WORLDWIDE
 
Miscellaneous Programs
 
ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE OF AMERICA
ARCHEOSPAIN
DYNAMY
WOOLMAN SEMESTER
 
Postgraduate Year Programs
 
ABOUT THIS DIRECTORY
AVON OLD FARMS SCHOOL
BERKSHIRE SCHOOL
BLAIR ACADEMY
BREWSTER ACADEMY
BRIDGTON ACADEMY
CANTERBURY SCHOOL
CHESHIRE ACADEMY
CHOATE ROSEMARY HALL SCHOOL
CUSHING ACADEMY
DEERFIELD ACADEMY
FORK UNION MILITARY ACADEMY
THE GUNNERY
HARGRAVE MILITARY ACADEMY
HEBRON ACADEMY
HILL SCHOOL
HOTCHKISS SCHOOL
HUN SCHOOL OF PRINCETON
INTERLOCHEN ARTS ACADEMY
KENT SCHOOL
KENTS HILL SCHOOL
KIMBALL UNION ACADEMY
LAWRENCEVILLE SCHOOL
LOOMIS CHAFFEE SCHOOL
MERCERSBURG ACADEMY
NATIONAL SPORTS ACADEMY
NEW HAMPTON SCHOOL
NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON SCHOOL
PEDDIE SCHOOL
PHILLIPS ACADEMY (ANDOVER)
PHILLIPS EXETER ACADEMY
POMFRET SCHOOL
SAINT THOMAS MORE SCHOOL
SALISBURY SCHOOL
SUFFIELD ACADEMY
TAFT SCHOOL
THAMES ACADEMY AT MITCHELL COLLEGE
TILTON SCHOOL
TRINITY PAWLING SCHOOL
VERMONT ACADEMY
WESTMINSTER SCHOOL
WILBRAHAM & MONSON
WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL
WINCHENDON SCHOOL
WORCESTER ACADEMY
 
International Postgraduate Year Options
 
BRITISH AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
OXFORD ADVANCED STUDIES PROGRAM
RIDLEY COLLEGE
ST LEONARD’S SCHOOL
 
Gap Year Resources
 
About the Author
References
Index

More Praise for The Complete Guide to the Gap Year
“What a fine encouragement to serious students to engage in a year of experiential learning and enjoyment to prepare themselves better for college. This book is full of positive examples, common sense, and solid advice. It should be read by all high school seniors.”
Malcolm H. McKenzie, head of school, The Hotchkiss School
 
“Kristin M. White fills a deep void with The Complete Guide to the Gap Year by providing much-needed information about this emerging and sensible option. It’s the definitive ‘How-To’ book on the subject, complete with program possibilities, instructive anecdotes, and sage counsel.”
Vince Cuseo, dean of admission, Occidental College
 
“Kristin M. White provides a comprehensive guide to any student considering the benefits of a gap year experience. Her efforts not only supply the reader with very helpful information and guidance, she creates an excitement for the possibilities a gap year experience offers. As an admissions professional, it is gratifying to see such a thoughtful and thorough approach to this growing phenomenon which can enrich the educational experiences of future generations of prospective college students.”
Kurt M. Thiede, vice president for enrollment management and dean of admissions, Bucknell University
 
“Kristin M. White has done a great job making the gap year more acceptable to both students and parents of students who have been on the fast track since birth. The opportunity to invest yourself in something where you are not graded, but you still have an opportunity to learn and make a difference, is invaluable.”
Jean D. Jordan, dean of admission, Emory University

001

Foreword
“I welcome you to this university, and now I ask you to please go away.”
These were the words that greeted me on my first day of college in September of 1979. They were spoken by Derek Bok, the president of Harvard University, who encouraged us to take a year away from school as a way to get more out of college, and ultimately out of life.
I had no idea at the time that I would heed his advice—taking a gap year during college—or that I would start an organization with my college roommate that provides an opportunity for thousands of others to do the same thing: to spend a year doing something richly rewarding for themselves, their futures, and their world.
Like most of my generation, I had gone right from high school to college—believing, as a friend of mine often says, “it’s just the thirteenth grade”—and I fully expected to be at college for four consecutive years. To my surprise, I took a gap year (before it was called a gap year) after my sophomore year of college. It was a surprise to me, but a decision I am so glad to have made. Looking back on it now, twenty-five years later, my gap year was really a leap year. In fact, it is the year that keeps giving: it continues to shape my life and my life’s work.
The summer after my sophomore year I worked as an intern on Capitol Hill. Although it was unpaid and only a temporary position, it was heady stuff for a twenty-year-old. I was given real responsibilities and soon became deeply inspired by the atmosphere of public service and the opportunity to witness and be a small part of the great public debates of the day. I wanted to hold onto that feeling of public purpose, of being part of something larger than myself. I decided to see whether I could find a job on Capitol Hill for one year. I had not really decided yet to take a gap year—just to go shopping for one. A friend of mine told me that a congressman from California had a position open and to run upstairs and walk my résumé to him. I did just that, and a few days later I was offered the job of legislative correspondent, answering constituent mail from people who lived three thousand miles from my home in Boston.
Now I had to decide. Would I really take a year off? Would I really let my friends go back to college without me? Sure, I could rejoin them for my junior and their senior year, but what about my senior year? And the year of adventure and memories I would miss with them? I realized that I really didn’t know anyone who had taken a year off from college, much less a year before college, except for those who had run into disciplinary problems or had had a personal crisis. Suddenly the decision got hard. Stepping off the narrow educational path to a college diploma that I and my peers had been on since kindergarten was not quite so easy. Ultimately, the opportunity to stay in Washington was too exciting to turn down. But I will never forget the lump in my throat when, after spending a weekend with my college friends in New York that fall, they all piled into their car and headed north to Boston and I got into mine and headed south to D.C., alone.
The congressman I worked for was Leon Panetta (who would later become President Clinton’s chief of staff and budget director and eventually director of the CIA under President Obama). Congressman Panetta had authored legislation about an idea I had never heard of: voluntary national service. The bill, H.R. 2500, sought to set up a commission to study the idea of national service and report back to Congress about its possible implementation. I remember picking up the file folder with the information on the bill and reading through it, feeling a growing sense of purpose and passion with each page.
The idea of national service—of calling on young Americans to give a year or more of voluntary service to their community and country—instantly inspired me. I asked to work on the bill and soon found myself organizing a congressional hearing and marshalling public support for the bill—things I could never have imagined knowing how to do just a few months earlier. We got the bill as far as passage by a congressional subcommittee, but no further. I, however, was hooked. For me, it was “national service or bust.”
When I returned to college the next year, it was with a newfound passion for my education and a focus on public policy and national service. I know I utilized my tuition money better this year than I had as a freshman. I sought out top professors and took advantage of special events and speakers. I had a much deeper appreciation for the privilege of being on a college campus—and being given the time to study. To my great surprise and delight, I discovered that a number of other people in my class had also taken a year off—and my senior year was not without old as well as new friends.
Looking back on it now, I realize that my year working on H.R. 2500 changed my life. I realized then that I wanted to do anything I could to help bring about a comprehensive system of voluntary national service for America, until the day when the most commonly asked question of a young person would be, “Where will you do your service year?” I worked with my college roommate, Alan Khazei, to found City Year. We called the program City Year because we came to believe that just as a young person has a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year, he or she should also have the opportunity and the challenge of giving a city year—a year for one’s community, where the neighborhoods, schools, and community centers become one’s classroom and people of all walks of life become one’s teachers.
While City Year’s motto is “Give a year—change the world,” it is also true that service can positively change those who serve. Over the years in my work at City Year, I have both witnessed firsthand and heard time and again from the young people who have served in the program—and from their parents and family members—what a transformative impact their service year has on them. Whether they chose to serve after high school, during college, or after graduating, the friendships made, experiences gained, and skills learned have changed the way young people viewed themselves, their education, and their possibilities.
Today more than 11,000 young people have served as City Year corps members, and more than 500,000 Americans have given a year as a member of AmeriCorps, the federal national service program for which City Year served as a model. With so much need in America and with so many young adults coming of age each year, it is my hope that a national service gap year can become commonplace, rather than unique. The upside for those who serve and the country at large is so great.
I am excited that a chapter on a national service year is included in this book, and I hope readers will consider a service year among their options. But as The Complete Guide to the Gap Year powerfully illustrates, a gap year need not be a year of service for it to be life changing—for it to be a leap year.
Kristin White has written a tremendously valuable book that captures the diversity of gap year options available and that helps students, parents, guidance counselors, and higher education admissions officers understand the what, how, where, when, and why of a gap year. She has written a go-to book for everyone interested in how to ensure a gap year is time on and not time off. Anyone undertaking a gap year or supporting someone who is considering it should read this important, insightful book.
I encourage anyone considering a gap year to develop a plan for the year that enables you to explore your passion and your curiosity and to ask yourself how the year might change you and the world for the better. You never know where it will lead you. I do not know anyone who has regretted choosing a gap year. The hardest thing may well be deciding to take a gap year—and being confident that the year will have a lasting and positive impact on your life. If you are reading this book, though, then you are beginning to understand that a gap year may be exactly what will help you get the most out of your life and your education.
President Bok’s challenge inspired me to move toward my own gap year journey. I hope this book—and the voices and stories detailed within—will serve not only as a resource, but as an inspiration for you or a young person you care about as you consider making the leap. Michael Brown
CEO and cofounder, City Year, Inc.

Acknowledgments
I’d like to offer my thanks to the many people who helped with this book, as well as those who encouraged and supported the idea and cheered me on as I wrote it in my never-quiet home with an infant and a toddler.
The gap year community is a large and vibrant one, spanning the globe. I was in contact with gap year program directors who were located as close as five miles from my home and as far away as Africa and Australia. I’d like to thank them all for opening up their programs to my scrutiny and questions and for giving me their views on the rapidly evolving gap year concept.
The students who were interviewed for this book inspired me with their passion and dedication to making positive change in the world. I’d like to thank each one for sharing the story of their personal journey.
The gap year would not be as popular as it is today without the endorsement of the higher education community. I am grateful to the deans of admission who contributed their thoughts to this book.
The section on financing the gap year is especially important in helping make the experience available to students from all economic backgrounds. Michael Bishko, Ethan Knight, and Paul Wrubel were invaluable in explaining the ins and outs of taxes and financial aid as they relate to gap year programs.
I owe special thanks to my agent, Molly Lyons, for offering her enthusiasm for this project and also her excellent ideas and help during the earliest part of the process. Working with the editors and staff at Jossey-Bass was a pleasure, and I’d like to thank Alan Rinzler, my editor, who believed in this project and offered invaluable ideas, assistance, and support. Nana Twumasi always had time to answer my many questions and provided important assistance. Thanks also to Robin Lloyd and Jennifer Wenzel at Jossey-Bass for their involvement in this process.
On the home front, I am grateful for the encouragement and help of my husband, Michael. He was a sounding board at all stages of this book, offering his opinion, assistance, and editing skills. He probably never wants to hear the words “gap year” again, and I thank him for withholding that fact over the course of the year. I am appreciative of my parents, Jim and Jeanne, for always supporting my love of books and my interest in writing, and I appreciate my brother Larry for always encouraging me to follow my dreams. I want to thank my daughter Caroline for giving up some playtime with mommy this year, and I’m grateful to my youngest daughter, Julianne, who offered a calming presence by sleeping beside me during much of the writing of this book.

To my husband, Michael

Introduction
I became a big proponent of the gap year when I saw the positive and lasting effects that the experience had on my clients. They returned from their gap year rested but invigorated—and ready to start college. They felt pride in their accomplishments and were eager to do more great things in college and in life. In some cases, they found a greater sense of purpose in life or clarified their reasons for attending college. I also learned from those students who did not do a gap year, but probably should have. They were the students who bombed their first year of college and entered sophomore year with self-doubt and a lack of confidence in their abilities. It wasn’t just the academically weak students who had this experience; a dismal freshman year can potentially strike all types of kids. It is hard to say with certainty whether a gap year would help these students avoid such struggles in their first year of college, but anecdotal evidence shows that students who complete a gap year have fewer of the academic and emotional challenges that other freshmen have.
 
 
In my consulting business, I found that there is a lot of excitement about the gap year. Kids’ faces light up when they talk about the places they might go. Many college admissions officers and people in the education field feel that the gap year is on the verge of becoming something big. It could be more than just a trend; it could be the beginning of a movement in education—a movement that values experiential learning, global awareness, environmentalism, and a concern for others throughout the world.
I also realized that the gap year is an educational step that raises a tremendous number of questions, from both students and parents. Such questions probably arise because there are so few resources on the topic of the gap year, aside from the information on specific programs available on the Internet. The most common questions from students concern what they will encounter, where they will go, what they will do, and who they will be with. Parents consistently ask about financing for the programs. They want to know what colleges think of the gap year and where it fits into their student’s overall educational plan.
This book is designed to serve as a resource for families who are considering the gap year. It is also ideal for high school guidance counselors, consultants, and others who advise students on their educational options. It provides an overview of the gap year as an educational choice, as well as practical details to help students plan their year.
Chapter One defines the gap year and explains why it is an important and useful step. Chapter Two presents the views of the higher education community and suggests that the gap year might be a good option for students who have not been accepted at the college of their choice, because it enables them to apply to colleges again and hope for better results. Chapter Three builds on that theme, offering information on the academic postgraduate year, which is a fifth year of high school for students who want to improve their credentials and study skills before starting college.
The cost of a gap year is one of the biggest concerns for most families. Chapter Four presents strategies for making the gap year affordable, including the use of federal financial aid, tax deductions, fundraising, or focusing on free programs. Students who want to pursue a completely free gap year should consider a year of national service, as explained in Chapter Five. Spending a gap year with a team-based, domestic volunteer program provides a meaningful experience that is not only free but also provides a $4,700 education award to use for college tuition. Chapter Six offers a framework that helps students navigate the vast gap year world and determine which areas and programs are a good fit. Finally, the program directory in Part Two has data on over two hundred of the world’s best gap year programs. It is organized by areas of interest and includes prices and Internet addresses for further research.
I welcome comments from readers and would like to hear from students who have attended the gap year programs listed in this book. I’m interested in feedback on these programs, as well as recommendations about other excellent programs that I may have overlooked. Please contact me at kristinwhite222@yahoo.com or through www.completegapyearguide.com with your comments.
I hope that this book will inspire students to take a chance, get off the academic achievement treadmill, and take the journey of a lifetime.
Kristin White
Darien, Connecticut

PART 1
Fundamentals of the Gap Year

CHAPTER 1
The Gap Year: It’s Not a Vacation
The question I hear most about the gap year is: What is it? Many Americans have never even heard the term, and for others it brings up vague images of backpackers or British royals.
 
 
So let’s start with my definition: the gap year is a break from formal education in order to become immersed in another culture, to volunteer domestically or abroad, to gain experience and maturity, to improve your skills in a sport, language, the arts, or academics, or take on some combination of any of these things. During a gap year the learning process continues, but in a different format and venue that will inspire and excite a student. In many ways the gap year can be more of a challenge than an academic year. Colleges and employers know that students who have finished a structured gap year are young adults who have direction, maturity, and a unique view of the world.
The gap year is more than just a trend. It is a movement in education that recognizes our global economy, our shrinking borders, and our need for public service. It is a response to our students’ need for a year to find purpose in their lives or to their yearning to take a break from achievement for its own sake and awaken their love of learning again.
The gap year movement is driven by colleges, is wholeheartedly embraced by students, and is often reluctantly agreed to by parents. Although they are often the last to get on the gap year bandwagon, parents are often the ones who are most excited about the positive transformation they see in their child after a gap year.

HISTORY OF THE GAP YEAR

The gap year concept is new in the United States and it is still evolving. Of course, the United States is a country with a rich history of adventurers and explorers. The idea of a young adult going on a quest or a journey is a common theme in American literature and in the family histories of many Americans. But the term gapyear—and the idea of taking a year off between high school and college—is a British invention.
According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services in England, 7 percent of all British students deferred admission to their university in 2007 in order to go on a gap year. Many more students simply take a gap year without making any college plans and apply to college after their journey. It is called a “gap year” or a “year out,” and although it sometimes includes meaningful cultural experiences or volunteer work, it doesn’t necessarily have to.
In fact, many British teens use their gap year to visit party destinations such as Ibiza, Spain, and various Greek island hotspots. The American system frowns on this behavior, and trips of this kind are not considered meaningful gap year plans. Colleges do not grant deferrals for a yearlong party; they hope that students will enjoy a break from structured academics but will continue the learning process through self-reflection, learning about other cultures, and finding purpose in their own lives.
As the gap year grows in popularity both in the United States and in England, it will be interesting to see whether the differences in their interpretations of the practice become more pronounced. In fairness to British students, many of them have done remarkable work in communities throughout the world during their gap years. But a meaningful gap year was not expected of them—it was their choice. In the United States it’s quite different: U.S. college admissions officers expect a gap year plan that will allow for fun, but also includes activities with intellectual depth that will help students to grow as people.

OTHER NAMES FOR GAP YEAR

The term gap year is used by programs worldwide and has strong name recognition. However, it isn’t the best description of what is really going on, since it implies a “gap” in learning. Many educators prefer other terms for the gap year.
Heath Einstein, associate director of college counseling at the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, was on a trip with a group of high school guidance counselors and observed about the term gap year: “We universally found that term inaccurate as it presupposes a break in one’s education. Rather, we felt that the year between high school and college could be a vital cog in a student’s education, even though it is not education in the formal sense. Therefore the group sought to rename it as a foundation year, indicating that there is a continuum, a natural progression: high school, then a year for foundation, and then college.”
Princeton University calls its program for incoming freshmen a bridge year. A working group of faculty and administrators who founded the program wrote: “We purposely use the word bridge as opposed to gap year in order to underscore the value added during this year, rather than its quality as an educational break or vacuum.”
The working group’s brief on the subject describes the Princeton bridge year as a fully funded nine-month program abroad where students will live in a “safe but unfamiliar cultural context abroad that, by its difference from previous settings, should challenge assumptions, encourage innovative thinking, and foster maturity. It will also provide a time of service, and opportunity for students to think about working with and for others, rather than simply with and for an ‘I,’ the psychological orientation characteristic of today’s intensely competitive pre-college experience.”
Whether it is called a gap year, a bridge year, a foundation year, or a postgraduate year, the key elements are that it should be meaningful to the student in some way and that a plan and structure are in place.

WHAT TYPES OF THINGS DO STUDENTS DO ON A GAP YEAR?

The majority of U.S. gap year students today participate in structured programs where they work in a team with like-minded young adults exploring something new. This small community might be traveling across the ocean on a sailing vessel, living in inner-city Chicago working with at-risk youth, or studying the effect of environmental change on coral reefs.
Independent-minded students may choose to craft their gap year outside the realm of structured programs. Some gap year students have gone on personal journeys, spending their time climbing mountains, hiking the Appalachian Trail, starting a nonprofit organization, writing a novel, volunteering on a political campaign, working with a local theater group, or composing their own music.
A gap year can be any of these things, but what is most important is finding a fulfilling opportunity and creating a detailed plan for the year. The array of opportunities available is staggering. This book lists hundreds of structured opportunities, which are organized into the following seven main themes:
Volunteer abroad or domestically. Yes, it helps others, but it also helps you. Get to know a community or an issue firsthand, help community members with their challenges, and become a better person for it. Developing a worldview and an understanding of poverty and other economic issues is important, and this is one incredible way to accomplish that goal.
Help the environment or study conservation issues. Animal lovers and those who are concerned about the environment are thrilled with the experiences they have in this type of program. You can work domestically with a conservation corps program, travel to Madagascar to study the unique marine life there, or spend your days on a boat following pods of dolphins.
Explore your interest in the arts. The arts and music often get pushed aside at high schools today. If you have a passion for the arts, this can be your opportunity to explore your interests in depth. Gap students can spend a semester making documentary films, joining a British theater troupe, or exploring the studio arts in Florence, Italy.
Challenge yourself in the outdoors
Learn about another culture
Go on an adventure travel trip
Improve your academic skills in a postgraduate year