The student identity has always been an integral part of any teenager or young adult’s life. How can it not be after 12+ years of school where a student’s life constantly revolves around attending classes, studying for exams, doing extracurricular activities, and getting ready for college. After experiencing the same routine for so many years, it leaves little room for self-exploration and discovery. This is why gap years have become increasingly popular among recent graduates to take a break from their formal education in order to pursue other activities and interests. Holly Bull is the President of Center of Interim Programs, which is the first and longest-running independent gap year counseling organization in the United States and was initially founded by Holly’s father, Cornelius Bull. Holly is a life-long gapper herself and will share her story and explain why more and more students are taking advantage of a gap year on the podcast.
Overall benefits of taking a gap year:
- Gap year students have higher GPAs than their non-gap year peers
- Gap year males outperform non-gap year females (significant given how females generally outperform males in college)
- Gap year students take four years or less to graduate. They are more efficient learners.
- ‘Gappers’ tend to be leaders on campus
- Gap year students have fewer behavioral issues & tend to be leaders on campus
- Gap year students connect the relevancy of classroom studies to the real world
- Gap Year students develop so many lifelong skills that they will use as you transition to college and after college
- Students develop the confidence, proactive energy, and personal power to explore and learn more about who you are and what your core interests are
- Students will land on campus as a freshman more relaxed and not as mentally fried
- Go to office hours. Go to guest lectures. The first time may be the most difficult, but the more you go, the easier it will be.
- Explore campus so you know where the key buildings are and even before classes start, walk around campus to know where all of your classes are so relieve any stress on Day 1.
Myths about taking a gap year:
- You do not need to set up the entire year with one gap year options
- More and more colleges are allowing deferrals for a gap year
- Students will fall behind in their knowledge of core subjects
- It is too expensive to take a gap year
- Students may feel out of step with their peers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing
- Will I be too old when I start school one year later
There are many different programs available ranging from facilitated, internship and skill-based, or volunteer options.
Seek out a gap year counselors and ask for a brainstorming session. Center for Interim Programs offers a free consultation for families along with many other companies.
Read the reviews for the various programs. Ask to speak with gap year alumni and ask them what was the worst aspect of the program.
Conduct due diligence to ensure you enroll with a reputable program. You need to put the thought and care into finding a program or series of options that are available in order for students to get the most out of their gap time.
Take the temperature of what you like and do not like during the gap time. There is room for tweaking your options throughout the gap experience.
Make college work for you when you arrive on campus. You will meet other gappers you will connect with given your shared experiences.
Ask colleges if financial aid can be deferred for the gap year
Important Resources and Links:
Meet Holly Bull
Holly Bull is president of the Center for Interim Programs, founded in 1980 as the first independent gap year counseling service of its kind in the U.S. Holly combines personal experience from her two gap years before and during college with thirty plus years of professional expertise as a gap year counselor. She has placed over 3,000 students in programs worldwide, has been a keynote or panel speaker for NACAC, HECA, IECA, and the USA Gap Year Fairs, as well as many public and private high schools nationwide. She is a parent of two gap year daughters and has a BA in Anthropology from UVA and a Masters in Education from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
Thank you to Holly for a wonderfully rich conversation sharing your own personal and family gap year experiences. Whether students take a gap year before or during college, the benefits of taking some form of a gap year are numerous and aere long term. Many colleges now encourage students to take a gap year knowing students will return to campus with a better sense of who they are, they will be more focused in their studies, many gappers are more apt to be leaders on campus, and studies have shown gappers have higher GPAs than non -gap year peers. There are many different programs available ranging from facilitated, internship based, or volunteer options. Do not feel the need to plan out the entire year as you can create several different gap experiences throughout the year. Check out the Gap Year Association for helpful resources or attend a USA Gap Year fair. Or book a free consultation with Center for Interim Programs. Make sure to ask the colleges you have been accepted to about their deferral options.