By Sara Cronin, senior admissions consultant
Former admission officer at Providence
College and the University of Connecticut
As juniors begin to think about
their time after high school many will consider post-secondary college
plans. Students often begin to think about
big or small schools, far from home or close by, city or suburban. One opportunity that some juniors may begin
to explore is a gap year. The idea of a
gap year has grown in popularity over the last several years, and now Tufts
University and other similar programs are making it an easier possibility.
A gap year is generally defined as
an extended break between high school and college. Often seniors in high school apply to
college, get accepted, and then defer their admission for six months to a year. The gap year experience can take on a number
of different possibilities. The year off
after high school can be utilized to volunteer locally or abroad, travel, intern
or work in a variety of settings.
Students who take advantage of the gap year experience often find
themselves in a very different setting than what they would discover on a
According to the American Gap
Association, an organization that is an “accreditation and standards-setting
organization for gap years that is recognized as such by the US Department of
Justice and the Federal Trade Commission,” interest and enrollment is growing
steadily in gap programs. There are no
definitive numbers regarding who is choosing to pursue a gap experience, but
the overall trends show a significant growth in students taking time off prior
The reasons that students pursue gap year opportunities vary widely. Some students feel they are not ready for
the rigors of a collegiate academic experience.
Other students look to expand their horizons beyond the US borders
before embarking on their collegiate careers in the States. While other
students are looking to earn both money and experience prior to college. Although the reasons may vary as to why
students choose a gap year, colleges report that those students who take six
months to a year before enrolling have a greater maturity towards and
appreciation for the university experience.
Studies show that 90 percent of students who took a gap year returned to
college within a year (Source: Wall Street Journal).
Tufts University introduced an innovative program a few years ago to give students a gap year opportunity. Tufts offers a fully
funded "1+4" program that provides students an opportunity to engage
in civic experiences around the globe.
According to Tuft’s website, the University and its Tisch College of
Citizenship and Public Service offer a bridge-year program, called
Tufts 1+4. This program provides a
structured year of full-time national or international service before students
begin their four years of undergraduate study.
Another gap year example is at Elon University in North Carolina, which
offers a gap semester program available only to enrolling freshman. This program provides students the
opportunity to spend the fall semester in three diverse settings and then
return to Elon for the winter term and spring semester.
There are numerous groups and
organizations that provide gap year opportunities. Costs can vary as widely as the program
options, but the overall goal is often the same: to expand one’s horizons,
increase self-awareness and challenge one’s comfort zone. A great place to start is with the American
Gap Association which offers an extensive amount of information and accredits gap programs. http://www.americangap.org/