Planning a gap year is a daunting undertaking for anyone, especially for a young person who has never drawn up a budget or put together a detailed itinerary. A simple Google search for “gap year” yields hundreds of millions of results in mere seconds. It’s exciting, but it can be overwhelming. We believe that parental support and good communication are vital components of the gap year planning process, and we are here to help.
A student’s ideas about and goals for her gap year can differ wildly from her parents’ ideas and goals, however, and conversations about gap years (or gap semesters) can be tense. Parents worry that a gap year might turn their child into a slacker, that colleges might frown upon the idea of deferring admission or taking time off, that a gap year will be unsafe or prohibitively expensive. In some cases, parents are stunned when their child finally accomplishes a goal she has worked so hard to achieve (and which her parents have worked so hard to save up for!) only to want to delay it for a semester or a year.
We help students identify and clarify their interests, goals, and fears, and we listen to and alleviate parental anxiety. As intermediaries in the planning process, we help relieve some of the pressure and guesswork from the gap year planning process. We help to reassure parents that well-planned gap years give students energy, direction, focus, and purpose. Often, students go from feeling burned out and directionless to feeling confident, independent, and proud of their accomplishments. This is why colleges (like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Tufts, Middlebury, Pomona, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, and UNC, to name a few) tend to look favorably upon the gap year idea and are more likely to gladly defer a student’s admission if she has a structured plan in place for her time off. And, while gap years can certainly carry a high price tag, there are myriad ways to make a gap year affordable (and, in some cases, even tax-deductible!). In fact, many families will attest that their child’s gap year actually saved them money in the long run.
In The Gap Year Advantage: Helping Your Child Benefit from Time Off Before or During College, Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson write that “a gap year plan may make the difference between graduating successfully from college with a strategy for life beyond and floating uncertainly on a path of young adulthood that may be accompanied by significant financial and emotional costs.”
As gap year counselors and consultants, we bring clarity, wisdom, and experience to the planning process. We are knowledgeable about the hundreds of gap year programs, opportunities, and resources available; we have relationships with organizations around the world, and we’re constantly vetting new programs and visiting both new and established organizations. We know how to ask the right questions of gap year programs, and we’re deeply committed to helping students plan gap years that are safe, structured, worthwhile, and truly transformative.