While some parents are reluctant to consider allowing their child “time off” after graduating from high school, there are many university deans and presidents who would encourage it.
William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard University, promotes gap years to his ivy league students, sharing, “The feedback from students almost all the time has been that this [gap year] experience was transformative. The more life experience you bring, the better off you are in school. Occasionally students are admitted to Harvard or other colleges in part because they accomplished something unusual during a year off.”
At the conclusion of Aiglon’s International Baccalaureate diploma programme, students are naturally tired; the academic rigour, alpine challenges, and normal adolescent pressures can be exhausting and stressful. Before engaging in one’s undergraduate studies, sometimes a break is needed. This break is not a time to sit around, but rather a time to follow a structured and planned journey to discover more about the world, people, languages, cultures, and one’s own interests, strengths, talents, and aspirations. In all cases, a gap year produces a more focused and aware young adult.
What to do?
There are so many options to consider when planning a gap year. The following chart, a part of the 2015 National Alumni Survey which was undertaken by Nina Hoe, PhD, in collaboration with the Institute for Survey Research, Temple University, and the GYA Research Committee, details the most significant influences when deciding to take a gap year.
Whether travelling, working, interning, training for a sport, enrolling in academic courses or fulfilling a required military post, a year between high school and university can be a combination of any of these things!
Examples of highly rated gap year experiences:
Up with People (Gain experience on and off stage while spreading positive messages to teens around the US and world.)
Where There Be Dragons
Explore possibilities through the network of family, friends and Aiglon alumni!
Will my child ever return?
The fear that students will lose interest in learning and not wish to return to university is not supported by the research and data gathered about gap year participants. The US-based data indicates that 90% of students return to university studies after their gap year experience. An active and structured year designed to meet one’s personal needs, interests, or talents only enhances and motivates a student towards their desired university course or major.
Open the mind, then open the door!
- Research options and ideas that inspire and motivate
- Discuss with family members, teachers, and college counsellors
- Complete university applications in the meantime, in case circumstances change; if admitted, a request to defer enrollment for a year is possible
- Plan the logistics of the gap year; weeks or months on which project? Travel and lodging logistics?
- Prepare to be away from home (and possibly away from internet) during the adventure
- Be open minded to the options available, to the adventure that awaits, and to the change of plans that will inevitably happen
About Patience Fanella-Koch
Patience is Director of College & Careers Counselling at Aiglon. She leads a four-person team working to offer personalised guidance to students as they search for undergraduate programmes and further careers. Patience brings nearly 20 years of experience in the admission and college counselling world and served six years as an executive board member of the International Association for College Admissions Counselling (IACAC).