Graduating High School Students
For graduating high school students, the gap year before college is an ideal natural break in your procession along the academic path, and there are many good reasons why you should take advantage of it.
You are old enough to travel on your own and it is often the first time that you will experience and identify yourself as separate from family and friends, an important step in your maturation process. 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.
It is often the first time that you are exercising a substantive choice regarding what it is that you want to do with your life, at least for twelve months. We find that because you view it as your year, you take more responsibility for it and for yourself.
We have worked with many students just like you who flourish when they encounter a pressure-free atmosphere where they feel needed and valued, and they invariably returned to school refreshed and self-confident.
The fact that we now inhabit a global village makes it vitally important for young men and women to be directly involved in other cultures. Subjective experience abroad can help break down the limited, and often unconscious, "we-they" mentality that invariably generates personal and global conflict. Some of you will lead the future generations, and the significance, therefore, of your enhanced multicultural awareness and respect for the rights of others is undeniable. This same point can be made with reference to programs that bring you into meaningful and sustained contact with different cultures and socio-economic levels of American society.
College Students and Recent Grads
For those of you who are college students, or 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 you at all. Career goals aside, taking three to twelve months of your life to explore and reflect is a tremendous opportunity that grows more elusive as time goes on. 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 younger!"