Take a Gap Year After High School to Take Control of Your Education

Students take a gap year after high school with Thinking Beyond Borders to take control of their
education. They want a break from the rigors of traditional classrooms while still actively engaging their minds. They want to find purpose and direction before committing to college. They want to know who they are and what they stand for. And they want to do all of this with a committed group of peers.

Why the Right Learning Space Works

I’m so grateful to have had the freedom, space, and experiences to really get to know myself. A lot of that came through learning from not only my TBB peers, but also my friends and host families. – Audrey Falk, TBB ’14

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Pros and Cons of a Gap Year

Whether to go straight to college or take a gap year after high school may be a hard question you are asking yourself. The path to college is well-defined and you have plenty of support in high school to help you follow that path. A gap year, on the other hand, can take a lot more time to plan, either by finding the right program or the right set of independent opportunities. The process takes a bit of investment in addition to the process of deciding where you are going to go to college.

But here are four reasons why that investment might be worth making: Continue reading

Alumni Spotlight: My Gap Year Gave Me Room to Grow

Lauren Bredar recently graduated from the Thinking Beyond Borders Asia Gap Semester Program. In this Alumni Spotlight series, she speaks about how she determined it was the right time to go on a gap year, what she gained from her gap year, and why she feels more motivated going to college in the fall.

Did your gap year meet your expectations? 

Lauren Bredar, Asia Gap Semester Program Alumni

Lauren Bredar, Asia Gap Semester Program Alumni

When embarking on my gap year, I definitely had a few goals in mind. I knew that taking a gap year would be a major challenge for me, so I was hoping and expecting for some personal growth. More specifically, I wanted to become more independent, develop a stronger sense of self confidence, feel more comfortable living alone when I go off to college, and challenging myself, just to name a few. After my semester program with TBB, I certainly feel that I’ve met those goals. I know what I’m capable of doing and feel ready for the upcoming challenges and adventures in my life, from leaving to go spend a semester in France (as phase two of my gap year), to beginning college in the fall.

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Alumni Spotlight: South American Gap Year Gave Me Purpose

In this spotlight series, TBB Alum Meg Stolberg shares why she decided to take a South American gap year. Meg tells the story of how she found the sense of purpose that she never gained in high school, and how her gap year has inspired her future career. She will be attending Washington University in St. Louis in the fall.

How did your South American gap year help you find a sense of direction?

Meg Stolberg, South America Gap Semester Alumni

Meg Stolberg, South America Gap Semester Alumni

 I was hoping to gain real-world experience and a sense of direction to guide me through college and beyond. There is no doubt that my time with Thinking Beyond Borders gave me both experience and direction. Living in communities culturally and socially different from my own forced me to become more adaptable and flexible. Seeing the problems showed me that all communities, abroad and in the U.S, face similar issues relating to health, education, and the environment. In addition, I was reaffirmed in my purpose to help people not only in my career but also as a citizen. TBB gave me tangible ways to actively live this purpose. By learning how to look internally at how I can be a better agent of change, focusing my energies on working with communities instead of for them, and limiting my assumptions about people, places and problems, I feel confident that I will enter college and my career knowing how to do my best to do good.

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How to Find Ideas for Your Gap Year

“It was the best decision I ever made.” -Mary B., TBB ‘11 Alum

That’s the feeling we all want to have at the end of our gap year. We have included some great resources for finding gap year opportunities below. But, how do you sort through all your ideas and figure out which path is the best for you?  The right gap year program should help you become the person you want to be the first day you step onto your college campus.

Here are five key pieces of advice to help you find the right gap year fit. Continue reading

How to Volunteer Meaningfully During Your Gap Year

Are you interested in volunteering during your gap year? We’ve got good news and bad news. Despite voluntourism’s booming $2 billion a year industry, experts are beginning to widely question whether it brings real benefits to communities and volunteers. In spite of that, there are still ways to volunteer on a gap year without harming communities and making it a meaningful part of your personal development; helping you shape your learning, expand your knowledge and find direction.

Here are four ways that you can create a more intentional and purposeful volunteer experience: Continue reading

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, 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