April 26, 2018

Jamie's Deferral Letter

Jamie is a high school senior in Massachusetts, accepted ED to Davidson. He started to feel burnt out this year, and also felt uncertain about what he wanted to study in college. After joining a school trip to Spain this spring, and researching his options, the idea of a gap year started to make more and more sense. With a month of careful planning, his gap year has really taken shape. 

Two days ago Jamie sent his request for deferral to Davidson, which granted his request on the same day! Jamie’s letter was so personal, honest and thorough, we are posting it here with his permission with the hopes that it inspires and supports those of you in a similar position.

Dear Dean,

While I am very excited about attending Davidson, I feel it would be beneficial and in my best interest to take a gap year before attending this fall. I am respectfully writing to request to defer my admission to begin in the fall of 2019. 

After a March school trip to Spain, I realized that while I can speak Spanish somewhat well, I really want to improve my Spanish and see more of the world. While I enjoy connecting with people, I think that improving my language skills will allow me to do this better. I also want to explore fields that interest me, so I can get a feel for what they are like before I start college. With this preparation, I think that I will attend college with a much better idea of what it is I want to study. Some areas that I would like to explore are: teaching, environmental restoration, and medicine.
I’ve zeroed in on a few opportunities that will expose me to these specific areas. To develop a gap year plan that gets me there, I am working with...a gap year counselor with the Center for Interim Programs...I am an outgoing person who loves to meet new people and see new places. I’m also an athlete who doesn’t enjoy sitting all day. [The counselor] and I have identified a number of programs to support my goals.

The first program that I would like to attend is for 12 weeks in Costa Rica starting in September. During my stay, I will learn Spanish and live with Costa Rican families in homestays. I will participate in several internships to gain other skills, including:

--Biological Station: This station helps protect the sea turtles that are found on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The project involves a lot of physical work in a pristine part of the coast.
--Agro-ecological farm: This is a farm in the mountains that offers guided tours, waterfall rappelling, and bird watching to visitors. I would live with a family and work and participate in the everyday routines supporting the tree nursery, reforestation projects and eventually receive the training to guide groups of visitors.
--Community center. I will volunteer in a community center where children need help and support with homework, assignments, school projects. The majority of these children come from very poor families whose parents need to work for 10-14 hours a day.
--Medical clinic: There will be various opportunities to shadow and support a medical clinic in a rural community.

After this initial, 12-week phase of my gap year, I return home in mid-November. At this point, I plan to work at a lodge in Alta, Utah. I have already spoken with the hiring manager there and I have secured a work commitment there from Thanksgiving through early April. I will have room and board provided while I work. This will be unskilled labor, either bussing tables or working at the front desk. This employment provides me the opportunity to ski in my time off and earn money for travel in the spring. Most of the seasonal workers will be around my age, so I am excited to work with others who are exploring a less traditional path.

After returning home for a week or two, I plan to travel back to Spain as part of a program where I can be a conversational coach to a family for up to 15 hours a week. For this work and an additional fee, I receive room and board. During this work experience, I plan to use my free time to explore the region. I plan to do this for 4 to 12 weeks, depending on how the experience goes.

While I was in Spain this past March with my school, we hiked 150 kilometers (approximately 90 miles) of the El Camino de Santiago. Despite miserable spring weather, including walking in rain and snow, I really enjoyed this trip, and I want to go back to hike more of this famous pilgrimage trail. I plan to go alone this time. It’s easy to meet people and make new friends and find walking partners on the Camino. This final leg of my gap year journey will, I hope, let me experience people in a foreign land and let me experience independence in a deeper way than college will.

To me, these three very different experiences give me the ability to get drastically outside of my comfort zone and to push myself. I look forward to becoming more independent and self-reliant throughout the course of the year. My hope is that I will return from my gap year energized to contribute to your academic community. I believe a break now that involves language learning and cultural discovery will make me a more focused, self-aware student when I return.

Even though I think the sound of the Class of 2022 is far cooler than the Class of 2023, I respectfully request the opportunity to defer my admission to Davidson for a year to join the Class of 2023. After all, life is a marathon, not a sprint.


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