Graduating High School Students
For graduating high school students,
the gap year before college is a most natural break in a student's procession
along the academic path, and there are many good reasons why students should
take advantage of it.
...and make new friends
They are old enough to travel on their own and it is
often the first time that they experience and identify themselves as separate
from family and friends, an important step in their maturation. The gap
year can be viewed as a rite of passage in a culture that seriously lacks
this important process of initiation for young adults.
For many students, it is often the first time
that they are exercising a substantive choice regarding what it is that
they want to do with their lives, at least for twelve months. We find
that because they view it as their year, students take more responsibility
for it and for themselves.
We have worked with many students who flourish when they encounter a pressure-free atmosphere where they feel needed and valued. They invariably return
to school refreshed and self-confident.
The fact that we now inhabit a global village makes it
vitally important for students to be directly involved in other cultures.
Their subjective experience abroad can help break down the limited, and
often unconscious, "we-they" mentality that invariably generates
personal and global conflict. Some of these young adults will lead the
future generations, and the significance, therefore, of their enhanced
multicultural awareness and respect for the rights of others, is undeniable.
This same point can be made with reference to programs that bring students
into meaningful and sustained contact with different socio-economic levels
of American society.
College Students and Recent Grads
For college students, or those who have recently graduated from
college, an interim semester or gap year is often one of reflection and reassessment,
a broadening of perspective and horizons. In 1988, in reference to the
20% of Harvard students who take a break at some point before graduating,
Harvard's Dean of Admission, Bill Fitzsimmons, stated: "Many students
have been in a sort of lock-step, working hard most of their lives. A
year of travel or employment gives them an opportunity to assess their
personal goals and values and possibly alter the course of their careers
before it's too late." The half step of enrolling in internships and apprenticeships during your
Interim Gap Year is an effective and often less stressful way to explore jobs without
having to commit to a field which, in practice, may not suit the individual
at all. Career goals aside, taking three to twelve months of one's life
to explore and reflect is a tremendous opportunity that grows more elusive
after graduation. In a number of our interviews with families, the most
common refrain of parents is, "How I wish I had done something like
this when I was in school!"