Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Exploring the "Gap" Year Alternatives

If you are graduating from high school this year, you might be considering taking a break before going to college or starting a career. If you are, think about doing something meaningful and explore "gap year" activities.

According to Wikipedia, the term, "gap year" refers to a "prolonged period (often, but not always, a year) between two life stages. This "gap year" is also known as a "year out", "year off", "deferred year", "bridging year", "overseas experience", "time off" and "time out". Taking this time off is actually very popular in Europe and Australia where young adults are encouraged to take a break after high school and before or after college. Graduates are urged to take on meaningful experiences during this time for personal exploration before moving to the next life stage of career or college.

Your graduation from high school or college this year could offer you the same opportunity. You might be thinking about taking the time off, especially if you are not sure what your next career or higher education step should be.

The question to ponder is whether or not taking the "gap year" off a good thing for you?

The answer of course is - it depends. You will want to weigh the pros and cons of taking this time off.

Here are some Pros:
1. Take the time to explore careers so you can become clearer about what to pursue
2. You may be tired of school and would not do well in classes anyway. This might save you money
3. You might be able to save some money to return to school, get an apartment or some transportation
4. Traveling could help you to explore geographical options and other cultures

Here are some Cons:
1. You may never want to return to college or further your education. This is probably the most common reason you will hear.
2. Once away from school you could lose touch with teachers and others who encourage you to further your education.

Some colleges understand this urge that high school graduates have and are now getting on board with innovative programs to meet the needs of these students. A recent article in the US News outlines "gap" year plans from Princeton University in New Jersey.

Princeton University is planning to send 10 percent of their incoming freshman admitted to the school overseas for a year to work in the social services. They will actually do this before these freshman students even set foot on the Princeton campus.

Here are some articles about finding meaningful ways to spend your “gap” year before or after high school or college:

How to Become a World Citizen; Before Going to College
The Gap Year by Susan Griffith
Year Out Group
Gap Year Program in Israel for North American Youth
Gap Year Gives Perspective

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