Mind The Gap

Is a year off right for your child?


In the U.K., taking a gap year between high school and college—for travel, work or study—is a normal rite of passage for young adults. But in the United States, the practice is just beginning to catch on.

The benefits of a taking time off in the form of a gap year can be huge for the North Shore’s often over-pressured, over-programmed teens, which is why gap years have been endorsed by education experts at schools like Harvard and Princeton. Princeton even has its own gap year program, “Bridge Year,” and most colleges will offer admitted students the options to defer a year.

In an article titled “Time Out or Burnout for the Next Generation,” Harvard College Admissions Dean William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard College Admissions Director Marlyn E. McGrath and Charles Ducey, Adjunct Psychology Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, sing the praises of gap years:

“Regardless of why they took the year off or what they did, students are effusive in their praise. Many speak of their year away as a ‘life-altering’ experience or a ‘turning point,’ and most feel that its full value can never be measured and will pay dividends the rest of their lives. Many come to college with new visions of their academic plans, their extracurricular pursuits, the intangibles they hoped to gain in college, and the career possibilities they observed in their year away.”

The options for gap year activities are limitless: Some students travel, others secure internships, engage in service projects or take part-time courses. Programs such as City Year and AmeriCorps are just a few of the exciting opportunities open to today’s youth. As gaps go, this one sounds awfully full—of promise.

To read the full article “Time Out or Burnout,” visit www.admissions.college.harvard.edu/apply/time_off/index.html

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