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THE LOWDOWN

A “gap” year is a unique opportunity for a young person to craft purposeful, self-driven experiences.

A gap year is a period of time, often between high school and college, deliberately designed to foster greater self-awareness, independence, perspective, and sense of purpose. The notion of a gap year has been common in other parts of the world, particularly the U.K. and other parts of Europe, for decades and is building in popularity in the United States.

Many students graduate from high school feeling drawn towards a reboot before college.  Some are depleted by the stresses of academic and extra-curricular achievement, the whir of social media, and a college application process that felt extra.  Others simply want to experience new growth outside the classroom.  College students, recent grads, and young professionals also increasingly choose to step back for a year of exploration.  A well-structured gap year offers a reset, a time to foster greater self-awareness, independence, perspective, and an inner-directed sense of purpose.  

Sandy’s goal is to help clients chart a gap year course that is chockful of meaning, personal growth, and FUN.

A range of Experiences

The gap year (or shorter) often involves volunteer work, travel, skill development, and/or career exploration, but the options are limitless.  A Gap Away’s tool kit will help you effectively evaluate each opportunity.

Your gap experience begins the day you meet Sandy!  Her coaching process typically begins with visioning to help narrow the array of options to those that best meet your goals.  Sandy will seed you with some ideas of good-fit programs or activities that are a good fit, but she’ll also provide you the tools and skills to find some on your own. This is part of how you come to be the owner of your gap year and build skills for a lifetime in the process.

Gap year benefits

A year of exploration and discovery can have an extraordinary, lasting, and positive impact.  Your personal gains will be just that – personal! No two gappers set out the same goals or return with the same gains.

  • Students generally return with greater maturity, major/career focus, and college readiness
  • In fact, many leading colleges actively encourage their accepted students to consider a gap year before their first year of college.
  • Did you know? A study conducted at Middlebury College showed that students who undertook a gap year before entering college maintained a higher GPA when compared to similar peers.
  • Those who took a gap year report greater satisfaction with career choice and experience.

GAP YEAR FAQS

Most frequent questions and answers

Students take gap years for many different reasons. Some examples are:

Passion: Do you have a passion, hobby, or skill you want to explore further, but might not pursue in college?  Maybe you study martial arts and want the chance to challenge yourself, go in-depth, and see what you can achieve and learn about yourself?

Focus: Are you seeking clarity on personal interests, potential careers, or areas of study? A gap year can help you explore those in “real-world” settings before you invest a semester or more in studying something that might not really fit for you.

Perspective: Take the opportunity to gain greater perspective by experiencing novel places and cultures whether domestically or internationally. In the increasingly global and diverse world we live in, getting outside of your comfort zone and experiencing more of the world adds breadth and depth to understanding and personal engagement.

Independence: Let’s face it. Being independent in your family home doesn’t always work, but a solid set of independence skills and experiences outside of your home definitely translates into a smoother transition and greater readiness for college or career. A gap year provides the opportunity to build independence and a sense of oneself apart from family and your home community.

Skills: Do you feel you would benefit from time to build specific skills that will be useful to you going forward?

Break from routine: Do you have a desire to experience and learn outside of the classroom before beginning the next stage of your life? Have you been cranking it out for years and want to experience a different setting and pace before you plunge back in?

Of course every student’s process will vary somewhat, but generally students apply first to college, with a plan to request a deferral, and then begin working on their gap year planning. It is a good idea to investigate deferral policies at each college you are applying to; most, but not all, colleges will work with gap year student deferral requests. After your college applications are complete is the typical time to start your planning. 

If you’re not sure about a gap year, or don’t feel ready to dive all the way in, consider scheduling a stand-alone “Gap Year 101” session.  One way to gauge if it’s the right time is if it feels exciting to think about what you might do.   A good place to start is by talking with your parents and setting a budget.  A Gap Away can help you with all of this and more.

This is likely the most common concern for gappers and parents–until they truly begin to understand the power and potential a gap year holds.  Given the benefits of takng a gap year, most gappers more than hit the ground running when they get back, often making academic and career strides in a more focused way than those who went straight to college or work.

The structure of a gap year typically follows that of the academic year.  Your high school friends will scatter and you might hit the road, too. You will have opportunities to connect and share experiences with your old friends. But you might not have imagined that you will be entering a new community–the wonderful world of intentional gappers–so you will likely make some new friends as well.

A Gap Away is committed to helping any student who wants to have the benefits of a gap year realize that dream. Sandy will work with you to set a budget, look for scholarships, identify cost-neutral options, and find a way to develop a gap year plan that results in the realization of your personal goals and vision without breaking the bank.

Some programs come with a higher price tag–generally those are well staffed, structured and established programs with a strong history of results. However, many gap year students tailor their own year of activities, often including a stretch of paid employment, with equally strong results and a much lower price tag. That is the beauty and creativity of gap year planning–the options are vast.

The best way is to be clear about your vision and goals.  What do you want to get out of this year?  After you have articulated your vision and the outcomes you the hope for, then’s the time to start looking for programs.  This is why A Gap Away’s advising process begins with developing a rubric based on a vision.  Program selection is fun, once you know how you want to grow and what you hope to experience.  A Gap Away teaches you how to evaluate programs in terms of how well they meet your criteria.

That’s unlikely.  Most colleges allow admission to be deferred by a year; some even encourage a gap year experience, because the students arrive refreshed, more mature, and ready to learn.  Typically, all that is necessary is a letter to the Dean of Students or Dean of Admission requesting a deferral, with a broad strokes description of your intention for the year.  You should confirm the deferral policy with your college or university.

The value of a gap year is certainly diminished if any portion of it is spent convincing someone else that it is worthwhile.  This is why A Gap Away starts with family conversations and makes sure everyone is working with an open mind.  It is normal to have some differing doubts or concerns, but Sandy’s goal is to help everyone feel confident in the gap year plan and potential. A Gap Away can help create a common language that assists families in productive communication about the gap year.

A gap year can take you anywhere in the world, including someplace local. There are great opportunities right here in the U.S.! Where you spend your gap year depends on your unique goals, interests, and budget. Because it may be difficult to experience personal independence and growth from the comfort of your childhood bedroom, Sandy generally encourages you to spend some portion of the year outside of your family home and can help you think creatively about how to achieve that.  

Why, yes!  It’s not at all uncommon for people in their 20’s or 30’s to invest a year to pursue a passion or take the road less traveled by before committing to further study or a particular career path. The planning challenges are obviously going to be different at this life stage than for graduating high schoolers, so a personalized advising approach will be helpful here.  Sandy has worked with a range of young adults at all stages.

Absolutely.  Sandy loves to support peers who are looking to invest more meaning in their time spent away from work and family.  Whether you have a short sabbatical or are looking to plan a longer period of exploration, Sandy can help you go deeper than just checking items off your bucket list.

Not necessarily.  This is one of the ways Sandy’s practice differs. A Gap Away recognizes that some students and families will be more prepared to take on the planning aspect than others–this is the reason for personalized coaching.  Working with Sandy will be fun, can help you feel confident that you haven’t left out an important consideration or limited your thinking unnecessarily, and will serve as a sounding board for your own ideas.  You’ll probably only get one gap year so you’ll want to maximize the experience.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

-JANE GOODALL

Customer reviews

What do people say?

As a Mom, I was able to express my anxieties and fears to Sandy and I felt completely supported throughout the process. She always made herself available and when our son had an unrealistic idea, Sandy was gently able to get us back on course.
CYNTHIA M.
MOM
I found the vision statement helpful. It played a large role in what I ended up doing, especially with regard to independence. That, along with responsibility and maturity, were the main points of my statement, and with Sandy's help I was able to become better with those things. This year altered my entire outlook on life.
JONATHAN C.
A Gap Away Alum

Coaching services for a purposeful and self-directed year of personal growth and fun.  Located outside of Boston, MA, A Gap Away is also available for advising via telephone and video.  

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