What does Harvard think about the gap year model?

“What do universities think about taking a gap year?”

I routinely hear this question when speaking with students, parents, guidance counselors and advisors alike.

The question reflects an underlying sense of nervousness which many people feel about stepping off of the “conveyor belt” approach to education, in which students progress directly and immediately from one stage of education to the next. As someone who has worked in both formal education and non-formal education settings, I understand that nervousness, but I have also come to realize that learning outside of the classroom on a gap year can be equally valuable, and is typically more relevant and meaningful to students than reading a textbook for a grade ever will be. A gap year can also make returning to formal education more productive; something which folks working in higher education have begun to notice.

Colleges and universities in the United States have begun rapidly positioning themselves as supporters and advocates of the gap year model, having seen firsthand how gap year students enter the college campus with higher levels of engagement and direction than their peers who came straight from high school.  This makes gap year students a more sought-after commodity on college campuses. We also see this growing support represented in the expanding number of universities accepting transfer college credit from gap year programs.  Schools like Harvard University have even gone as far as to offer “conditional acceptance”, or college acceptance with the condition that the applicant first take a gap year and then enter college the following academic year.

One of Thinking Beyond Borders’ founders, Robin Pendoley, sat down with Harvard Education Magazine to discuss the role a gap year plays in the challenging transition from high school to higher education, and how Thinking Beyond Borders’ gap year programs are designed specifically to match the adversity students which face at this critical juncture.  You can read the full Harvard Ed Magazine article here.