The Benefits of a Gap Year and How to Plan a Successful One
Updated: Jan 12
The White House recently announced that Malia Obama has decided to take a gap year before attending Harvard University.
What exactly is a gap year and why has it become so popular in recent years?
A gap year is a year taken by a student as a break from school. Gap years usually take place before or after college. After years of rigorous studies, students are often burnt out. Some people think that a gap year gives students a chance to decompress and reflect on the things they've learned over the years.
Gap years have become more popular as many people focus more on finding their purpose and on making the world a better place than on finding success in terms of money. Harvard actually encourages students to take a gap year:
"Harvard College encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way—provided they do not enroll in a degree-granting program at another college. Deferrals for two-year obligatory military service are also granted. Each year, between 80 and 110 students defer their matriculation to the College." (From the Harvard website)
Some parents worry that a gap year might set their student back, but students often end a gap year more refreshed and focused than ever. While a gap year can be a very positive experience, there are things that can be done to be sure students get the most out of their gap year.
How to Plan a Successful Gap Year
1. CHOOSE YOUR WHY
Understand why you want to take a gap year. Knowing your why makes it easier for you to choose the program that will best fulfill your needs.
2. APPLY TO COLLEGE
Apply to college and request a deferment. This secures a spot for you at the college of your choice. This allows you to enjoy your gap year without worrying about what you will do after the year is over or having to scramble at the last minute to apply for colleges as your gap year comes to an end.
3. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Decide if you want to participate in a readymade gap year program or if you'd like to create a more individualized program for yourself. There are tons of programs and opportunities to choose from. Gap Year Fairs are a great place to get information and meet like-minded families.
4. MAKE A PLAN
Gap years don't have to be costly, but they can be without proper planning. There are scholarships and grants available to help fund gap years. Consider things like living expenses, travel costs, and healthcare when planning your excursion. This article from US News is packed full of resources to help you plan your gap year: Try Scholarships to Help Pay for a Gap Year, Time Off From College.
5. BE REALISTIC
Life is full of the unexpected! Things don't always go as planned, but there's usually a way to adjust and make the best of things. Remember your "why" and make the most of your gap year, it'll probably be one of the best memories of your life!
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