Traditionally, students transition directly from high school to their first year of undergraduate education at college. While some students follow this path and excel, others might have trouble adjusting. Moving to a new environment, taking classes, and studying for exams, all without having their parents monitoring their behavior and grades—some students just aren’t ready to jump right into college. And that’s okay! Many students are now taking a gap year between high school and college to gain life experiences to better prepare for university. Students can use their gap year to travel, volunteer, or further their knowledge in a particular subject.
What is a gap year?
A gap year is essentially a break between your senior year of high school and your first year of college. What you do during that gap year depend sonwho you are, your interests, and your goals.
Gap years have started to gain in popularity within the last few decades. Malia Obama, Prince William, and Prince Harry all took a year off before attending college. Luckily, you don’t have to be a member of the elite to take one. More students are starting to take advantage of gap years as universities are allowing students to defer their admission for one year. Schools like Harvard University, Princeton University, and Middlebury College often look positively on gap years and frequently give students the opportunity to defer enrollment for a year to pursue this opportunity. One option for how to spend your time is to attend a gap year program, like the ones listed below, that give students a structured and transformational experience.
Related: Your Goals, Your Life, Your Gap Year
NOLS is an immersive gap year program that allows students to explore every corner of the world, from India to Alaska to Mexico. NOLS teaches lessons in leadership and confidence with the chance to earn college credit through courses like backpacking, canoeing, whitewater kayaking, wilderness medicine, and more. The nonprofit outdoor education school aims to teach environmental ethics, outdoor technical skills, and risk management and judgment. Scholarships make this gap year program possible for every student.
2. Thinking Beyond Borders
As a global leader in gap year programs, Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) is an expert in offering culturally enriching experiences. They provide students with the opportunity of cultural immersion through homestays in foreign countries. If one of your main determinants to doing a gap year is cost, TBB gives students options. They offer scholarships and assistance in helping students raise funds for their tuition. TBB also helps build crowdfunding campaigns through generosity.com, which has helped students raise anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $20,000.
3. Outward Bound
Outward Bound aims to change lives through challenges and discoveries. Participants in the program have the chance to explore the wilderness or cities through 30–85-day expeditions that give students real-world, hands-on experiences. Many people have found that Outward Bound pushes them mentally and physically, allowing them to achieve things they never thought possible before joining the program. Students can also receive between three and 18 college credits, depending on the length of their expedition.
Completing any of these gap year programs is an excellent way to make your college application stand apart from others—after all, not many applicants can say that they’ve completed an 80-day expedition into the wild or lived with a family in a foreign country. A gap year can help students adequately prepare for college by increasing their confidence, rediscovering a love for learning, and gaining invaluable life lessons and skills.
Find the perfect school to welcome you after your gap year with our College Search tool!