What is a Gap Year?: Gap Year for Beginners

A “gap year” is typically a period between completing high school and beginning college. The American Gap Year Association defines a gap year as “a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with possible careers.” There are countless reasons to consider taking a gap year, but the most important is that a gap year can prepare you for college. Research shows that a well-structured gap year can provide opportunities to develop personal and social maturity, academic focus, and a sense of direction. Continue reading

Prevent First-Generation College Dropouts with a Gap Year

Winson Law First Generation College StudentThis is a guest post by Winson Law is a Junior at Middlebury College. As a first-generation college student, Winson participated in college access programming with Rainier Scholars, enrichment with the School for Ethics in Global Leadership and One World Now, and a gap year with Global Citizen Year. Winson created opportunities with MiddCORE and Thinking Beyond Borders to research why and how to make gap years accessible to first-generation college students.

First-generation college students have far lower graduation rates than more privileged students. To solve this problem, we must reframe the existing motivations for higher education for underserved students. Purpose, direction, and the cultivation of identity must take the front seat, providing the intrinsic motivation that drives them to academic success. These priorities stand in stark contrast to the common message used to motivate first-generation college students — that a college degree will result in higher paying jobs. Particularly in higher education, encouraging first-generation students to follow their interests and passions will lead to richer academic engagement, improved college graduation rates, and more fulfilling careers. Experience and studies suggest that gap year programming may be a key component of this strategy to improve outcomes for first-generation college students in higher education. Continue reading

A First-Generation College Student’s Gap Year

Winson Law First Generation College StudentThis is a guest post by Winson Law, a Junior at Middlebury College. As a first-generation college student, Winson participated in college access programming with Rainier Scholars, enrichment with the School for Ethics in Global Leadership and One World Now, and a gap year with Global Citizen Year. Winson created opportunities with MiddCORE and Thinking Beyond Borders to research why and how to make gap years accessible to first-generation college students.

My gap year was a form of college preparation that I didn’t know I needed. While it seems counterintuitive that a year spent away from school would actually add value to my college experience, my gap year did exactly that. It gave me a real-world perspective about global issues, allowed me to develop greater confidence, and catalyzed new questions about the world. Despite needing financial aid and my mom’s initial disapproval, I ultimately was able to participate in a transformative experience. Now, both my mom and I appreciate how valuable the experience was in priming me with academic and personal growth before entering college. Continue reading

The Inequity of “The Good Life”

Winson Law First Generation College StudentThis is a guest post by Winson Law is a Junior at Middlebury College. As a first-generation college student, Winson participated in college access programming with Rainier Scholars, enrichment with the School for Ethics in Global Leadership and One World Now, and a gap year with Global Citizen Year. Winson created opportunities with MiddCORE and Thinking Beyond Borders to research why and how to make gap years accessible to first-generation college students.

As a first generation college student from an immigrant, single-parent, and multi-generational household, I believe that the value of an education goes beyond how wealthy it can make me. An education is a way to explore important questions, increase access to career opportunities, and pursue a meaningful life. However, we live in a society that creates separate definitions and pathways to the “good life” based on privilege and class. Privileged students are encouraged to earn money through fulfilling lives, while non-materially privileged students are told to get an education in order to make a living. This message prevents many first-generation students from leading meaningful lives due to pressures to earn a high salary. Continue reading

How to Convince Your Student They Should Take a Gap Year

Convincing your student to take a gap year can sometimes be challenging. While many see a gap year as a crucial part of the college transition (including Harvard’s Dean of Admissions, Forbes, the NY Times, and even this blog), students often have real concerns. Here’s how to make your case. (Oh, and if you’re a student, try this post on convincing your parents to let you take a gap year.)

Some Students Don’t Want to Take a Gap Year

Let’s start by trying to understand why students might not want you to take a gap year. Here are the most common reasons we hear: Continue reading

How to Convince Your Parents You Should Take a Gap Year

Convincing your parents that you should take a gap year can sometimes be challenging. More and more people see a gap year as a crucial part of the college transition (including Harvard’s Dean of Admissions, Forbes, the NY Times, and even this blog), parents often have real concerns. Here’s how to make your case. (Oh, and if you’re a parent, try this post on convincing your student to take a gap year.)

Some Parents Don’t Want Students to Take a Gap Year

Let’s start by trying to understand why your parents might not want you to take a gap year. Here are the most common reasons we hear: Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: Gap Year Before College – How it Prepared Me

Andrew Kim is an alumnus of the TBB Global Gap Year Program Class ’12 and The Roxbury Latin School. He is currently a student at Harvard University studying psychology. In this interview, Andrew shares his experiences in college: the Model United Nations, a public health internship in Uganda, and using his gap year skills.

Did your gap year influence your interests when you got into college?

Andrew Kim Discusses His Gap Year Before College

Andrew Kim

Andrew: I think at the end of my gap year, I was very moved by the conversations that I had among my peers on the program and inspired to create change. When I came to Harvard I had the desire to continue this education. I was a little discouraged by how little discussion there was on my campus on international development or sustainable development. In the academic realm, the most popular classeswere economics and it was a very different way of viewing the world than what I had come to appreciate. At first I tried joining a lot of organizations that were sort of development focused, but after a while, I don’t think I found a place on campus to foster that. Now I am studying psychology, looking mostly to take clinical psychology. I think a lot of mental health, and people’s individual experiences, which in some way was fostered by seeing so many different lives. I sort of realized that my interest is in having interactions with people. Continue reading

Day In the Life of a TBB Gap Year Student

We’re often asked how TBB is different from the other gap year programs available to students. So, here it is: We’re searchers. As students and Program Leaders, we live and work with local experts in communities around the world, seeking understanding of critical global issues and a vision for meaningful solutions to these problems.

What does that look and sound like? Here’s Emma Rockenbeck (TBB Global Gap Year Class of ’14) in Jaipur, India learning about education:

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The Power of Gap Year Mentors

This is a guest blog post from Amanda Payne, a former TBB Program Leader. She led the Global Gap Year program for 2 years and has now joined our US staff to support student recruitment and programming.

I struggled in college to find my way, mostly alone, scared and lost. It’s sad to think that when I graduated I was no closer to finding direction than I was when I started. After graduation I moved back home and vacillated between following a more conventional path supported by my parents that involved a cubicle and a more adventurous path that involved taking off to see the world as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was struggling to make this decision when I happened to see my cousin Lee at a family gathering. She whispered the most basic and simple piece of advice when she hugged me goodbye: “Follow your heart.”

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5 Developmental Needs Gap Years Meet that Colleges Don’t

The transition to college is a lot like the transition to middle school. There are enormous developmental changes happening within students — cognitive, social, emotional — at the same time that they are challenged with a dynamic new social and academic scene. As anyone who has been to a middle school can attest, ensuring students learn and grow in productive ways requires intentional support to meet their developmental needs.

Generally, colleges don’t do a great job of this. Gap year programs do. Continue reading