Gap years have long been a staple of adolescent transition to adulthood in many countries throughout the world, but they have been slower to catch on in the United States; a country with a world-renowned higher education system. But what happens when cracks begin to form in that system and the traditional conveyor belt of high school to college is thrown into question?
The coronavirus pandemic is forcing many small, private colleges in the US to shut their doors. Others like California State schools, are not welcoming students back to campus in the Fall and have decided to offer virtual classes instead; an option which few believe delivers the same quality of education as in-person instruction. This leaves the graduating class of 2020 with a vastly different landscape of options to navigate than classes before them.
Into this void, steps the gap year.
Perhaps you’ve read about gap years recently in the New York Times, Forbes, The Princeton Review, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, US News, The Business Insider. Many publications are rapidly turning their attention toward gap year opportunities amid new and unprecedented levels of uncertainty within higher education. For newcomers to the gap year concept, you can find more information in our Guide to the Gap Year.
The benefits of taking a gap year are numerous and many fall into the category of compensation for skills, capacities or growth areas which formal education may not have addressed. Students can engage in experiential learning outside the classroom for example, which serves to reignite their natural curiosity and passion for learning. Gap years offer time for reflection, personal growth, maturing, social-emotional learning, and exciting exploration of the world we live in that isn’t isolated in a classroom. Spending time on these capacities is well worth it, as a gap year is strategically located right before making a large investment in college tuition, thus enabling students to gain more from their college experience (and gain more for their buck on tuition).
Thinking Beyond Borders offer 3 distinct gap year programs, which offer students meaningful learning experiences to access the above mentioned benefits. Like higher education however, gap years don’t live in a world isolated from the coronavirus pandemic. Many programs are adjusting their offerings as well to ensure the safety and health of their students. For more information on Thinking Beyond Borders’ response, please visit our 2020 Program Updates page.