Student Life

Mind the Gap Year

You might have noticed that more and more people in the U.S. are taking a year “off” between high school and college — a gap year. Is this because of the economic crisis? Or are some students just heading to Europe or Asia to party for a year before college starts in earnest?

Not really. Well, not always. Students in Europe and in other countries have been taking gap years since at least the 1960s. In Australia, the UK, Japan, and elsewhere the focus of gap years (or “working holidays”) is on work, and students and young adults take advantage of reciprocal working visa programs.

But in the U.S., the program has focused more on volunteerism and preparation for college life. According to The Gap-Year Advantage, a book by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, the year (or semesters) off between high school and college can help you gain confidence, focus, and discipline — but only if it’s properly planned. Planning may not sound nearly as fun as bumming around the Alps without an itinerary, but in the end can lead to a richer, more rewarding experience that you’ll value — and colleges will too.

What to do on your gap year is really up to you. Your options include everything from a homestay with a family to a study abroad program to an internship overseas, and more.

Need more information? Then you won’t want to miss Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson’s presentation at the upcoming EducationXpo on Thursday, February 26. They will discuss what you can do during a gap year, how much it costs, and what colleges think of gap years. They will also host a live question-and-answer session. Learn more and register for EducationXpo here. Registration is free.

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