While it has been a longtime tradition for high school graduates in Europe to spend a "gap year" traveling the world and volunteering before college, this practice is becoming more popular and accepted in the United States. U.S. News spoke with students who took a gap year before college, as well as gap year counselors and college admissions officials, to answer common questions related to taking a gap year.
What exactly is a gap year?
The term "gap year" has taken on different meanings over the years. Holly Bull, president of the first and longest-running gap year counseling organization in the US, defines a gap year as a period of time that people use to explore areas of interest. Bull says a gap year doesn't have to last a full year and can be taken at any age, but the typical gap year is taken by students between high school and college.
Gail Reardon, who runs the gap year counseling firm Taking Off, says: “The name implies that students are taking a gap in their education, when really the gap is to fill in what they haven't learned in school. A gap year is about what happens after school, how you make decisions, how you figure out who you are, where you want to go, and how you need to get there. It's about the skill set you need to live your life."
I want to go to college. Should I apply before or after I take a gap year?
Most counselors and college admissions officials encourage high school seniors to apply and get accepted to college before taking a gap year. Reardon says students should apply to college while in high school because their junior and senior years are set up to support the college application process. William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, says Harvard accepts students who apply after their gap year.
Are there affordable options for a gap year?
Many domestic and international programs charge little to no fees. Bull recommends students look for programs that offer free housing and food in turn for volunteer work. But be prepared to work. Zack Sills just completed his gap year, and he lived for free on a ranch in British Columbia. In return for food and housing, he cut firewood, took care of livestock, and worked in the kitchen.
Gap years can also save parents money in the long run. Steve Goodman, an educational consultant and college admissions strategist, says, "If a gap year clarifies what a student is going to do at college, it pays back in college because you're saving tuition money for the time a student may have spent clarifying their major."
What are the benefits of a gap year?
Gap year consultants, students, parents, and even college admissions officials all claim that gap year experiences make these students more mature, confident, and career driven. Goodman says, "Taking a gap year can clarify the intellectual, academic, and professional objectives of a student." The students emphasize that the experiential learning during their gap year was unlike any they could gain in the college classroom. Sills, 19, says, "I learned just as much in my nineteenth year then I probably learned in my last two years of high school. When I was in Canada, I was the only American at the ranch. There were Canadians, Germans, and Australians, so it really made me appreciate other cultures. I learned a lot in Canada; the type of work I did made me come outside of my comfort zone." He says this experience helped prepare him to pursue a film degree this fall at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Emily Carr, 19, spent September to December 2009 taking courses related to marine biology on a boat that toured the Eastern Caribbean. For the rest of her gap year, she spent this spring volunteering for a penguin and sea bird hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, and then in an animal rescue and refuge center outside of Bangkok, Thailand. "My gap year helped me build my people skills, gain more independence, and more maturity," Carr says.
What do college admissions officials think of gap years?
College admission officials have become more accepting of the gap year over the past several years. Some even encourage their admitted students to take one. Some encourage students to take a gap year so they don't burn out in college. Those who come to school after a gap year are "so fresh, anxious, and excited to be back in school," he says.
At Binghamton, Brown has also noticed an increase in the number of students taking a gap year. "I think the increased maturity, self confidence, sense of problem solving, and recognition that they can do these kinds of wonderful things only serves them well in their college experience," she says.
Hi everyone, I’m strongly considering gap year after I graduate from high school. No matter where I go, I know I want to teach English. After graduation I will have studied 5 years of Spanish. I can’t decide if it would be better for me to go to a country where they speak Spanish or a different language(because I do want to learn Arabic in the future). If I went to a country where I don’t know the language, would I even be able to communicate with them enough to help them learn English? HELP!!
I know many HS grads who have taken a gap year for one or more of the reasons mentioned above. None has regretted the decision! One thing on the minds of many: "After sitting in a Spanish/French/Chinese class for the last 4 years, I still can't carry on a simple conversation in the language without sounding like a 5-year old!" Honing language skills, then, is a big reason for taking some time out before college. Just "travelling around" a Spanish-speaking country (for example) won't get you where you want to go, however. You need some further instruction, a homestay and, probably, a program with enough structure in order to make sure that you are immersed in the language 24/7.
I spent 4 months in Northern India teaching English to a community called the Lepchas. It was a huge challenge and definitely out of my comfort zone - no running water or electricity! But living with a host family gave me the chance to really immerse myself in their culture and traditions - it was actually life changing! I now look forward to starting College in the fall. I volunteered with a UK based company called Africa & Asia Venture (www.aventure.co.uk).
Who said that?
“Living with a host family gave me the chance to really immerse myself in their culture and traditions…” -
“A gap year is about what happens after school, how you make decisions, how you figure out who you are, where you want to go, and how you need to get there.” -
“Just "travelling around" a Spanish-speaking country (for example) won't get you where you want to go…” -
“My gap year helped me build my people skills, gain more independence, and more maturity…” -
“Taking a gap year can clarify the intellectual, academic, and professional objectives of a student.” -
Finish the sentences to make them true for you:
· The term “a gap year” for me means…
· Taking a gap year can help…
· If I had a chance to take a gap year I would …
Work in a group. Prepare your arguments both in favour of and against taking a “gap year”. Present your arguments in a round table talk.
Name: Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Year Founded: 1636
Tuition and Fees (Fall 2009): $36,828
Total enrollment (Fall 2008): 26,496
Undergraduate enrollment: 10,156
Undergraduate applicants (Fall 2008): 27,380
Graduation rate: 98%
Sports Nickname: Crimson
Official Web site: Harvard.edu
Continuing Education at Harvard University
The majority of people dream about continuing their education at Harvard University, a famous education institution where numerous outstanding persons have made their first steps in career. You can choose one of the presented major programs for your academic benefit.
1. The Harvard Summer School is considered the oldest American academic summer session. Every summer lots of students of various ages visit the University from each state and about 80 countries to study for two months with faculty from Harvard and some American universities.
The Summer School has a program for well-qualified secondary school students, and courses in creative writing, premedical sciences, economics, and other foreign languages.
2. The Harvard Extension School is an academic evening program serving the educational needs and interests of the Greater Boston community. It provides open enrollment, coeducation for various ages, part-time evening study, modest tuition rates, and a chance to study for career advancement, personal enrichment, or certificates or degrees. About 550 courses are offered annually, including computer and health sciences, administration and management, arts, some foreign languages to about 13,000 students of various ages.
3. The Harvard Institute for English Language Programs offers part-time evening and day programs to non-native speakers. During the summer session, intense day, part-time evening, as well as numerous business programs are provided.
4. The Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement provides retirees a chance to follow intellectual interests plus explore some new fields of learning in different study groups.
Harvard University Degree Online
Harvard university degree programs online have made it very simple for a great number of people to be capable to get further education owing to its convenience. And so, as a result of this, those people who are very busy, even handicapped people and the persons who are at home all the time could choose it.
By means of the Internet, students and teachers are connected with Harvard University degree program online. Such arrangement will enhance learning and make it much more flexible. Also, students have right for using the school web site and acquire their study materials on the site for learning.
In addition, various innovative pedagogic techniques are employed in that students are often engaged in the serious web chat. The lecture time-table is fixed, and students receive lecture no matter when they have the time.
Lots of research works have justified it that students can learn well utilizing this way of learning. While an exam was conducted for online and regular students alike, they scored grades were similar. During the years people have grasp the concept of Internet courses. Employing of online degree alumni is the choice of by agencies with good reputation. Actually, they see premium qualities in them, for example, discipline and diligence.
No matter when you wish to register, you must be sure to register with only an accredited school online like the one that is managed by Harvard University. In addition, you should be aware that certain online college web sites are posted by online fraudsters. Thus you need to be watchful whenever you want to enroll.
What do these numbers refer to?
26,496 13,000 98 1636 80 550 36,828
Make up dialogues in pairs making use of the following words and phrases from the text.
for your academic benefit
engage in a web chat
a course in economics
make first steps in…
serve the needs/interests
conduct an exam
Browse the official website of Harvard University (http://www.harvard.edu/), choose and explore your own topic of interest. Present a mini-lecture/a mini-project.
University Guide: Want a place? Get the insider knowledge
If you're thinking about applying to university, you're probably confused about what to expect. With tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year, you're likely to be wondering what the final bill will actually be and whether it's worth it, as well as the usual questions about where to go, what to study ... and will you get in?
Student life is still an unparalleled educational and social experience. So if you want to go, you should be more determined than ever to get on to the best possible course at your ideal university.
But how to actually get a place? Read on. We've got exclusive tips from the very people who'll be reading your personal statements this autumn. They reveal what they really want to see on an UCAS form, and advise how to pick a course – and why following them on Twitter could put you on the path to a cap'n'gown.
What to study?
Gloomy admissions statistics might leave you wondering whether the best course is the one that's most likely to offer you a place. It's not. Imagine dragging yourself to lectures to study something you hate for three or more years. Pick a course you'll be motivated to study – either a subject that fascinates you or a vocational course that sets you on the path to your dream career.
• "Don't be afraid to contact a university to find out more – this shows interest and commitment," says admissions tutor John Wheeler at Staffordshire University. "Many universities make a record of personal contact, and may use it in their decision-making."
• "Don't apply for lots of different types of courses," says Sheila Byrne at Anglia Ruskin. "This shows lack of commitment and not knowing what you want to do."
Where to apply?
Don't place too much authority on universities' glossy photos – they're adverts. Ask yourself what you want from a university; how far away from home do you want to be, and do you want to be in a big or small institution? At open days, ask the grumpiest-looking students their views: they're more likely to be honest. Check out extra-curricular activities, library facilities and bursary offerings, which differ according to university.
• Nicola Rees, admissions tutor at Kingston University, says: "Never be afraid to ask questions, however intrusive you think they may be. Most unis have a live chat line for potential applicants staffed by current students or staff. Ask what are the rooms like, who will you share with, what facilities are there? An informed choice will be a better choice."
• "Apply early," advises Philip Davies, head of admissions at Bournemouth & Poole College. "Don't leave your application until the new year. The best places fill up quickly." Unsurprisingly, Davies also recommends looking beyond traditional universities. "Don't forget colleges, which can offer you the same quality degree as a university, but usually a lot cheaper."
The UCAS statement – containing just basic facts about you plus your personal statement – is your precious tool to tell universities: pick me, one day I'll make a great addition to your alumni list. But don't go too far – avoid jokes at all costs. You can make yourself stand out before your application lands on their desk: universities are making a big effort with social media.
• "Have a look at course blogs to get a feel for what's happening," says David McSherry, a lecturer at the University of Lincoln. "Comment on them. Find out who the academics who teach on the course are, follow them on Twitter, introduce yourself. That way you'll already have had a dialogue with them before you meet them in the flesh at an open day."
• "Humour is a risky strategy – your taste may not be shared by the person reading the application," says John Wright, admissions tutor at the University of Surrey. "Aim to devote the majority of the personal statement to academic achievement and motivations, but do include evidence of leadership skills, and situations where you have overcome problems to achieve goals. Admissions tutors tire of reading statements like, 'I am fascinated by science'. Give examples of situations where your interest has been aroused."
If the worst happens…
If you're not successful with your application to university, don't crawl under a rock. Since many university courses begin in January or other times throughout the year, don't assume you'll have to wait 12 months: shop around.
"Seek feedback from admissions tutors as soon as possible," says Warren Turner at London South Bank University. "Don't give up. Consider other routes into higher education – a foundation course, apprenticeship, work-based learning – before submitting another application."
Who said that?
"Many universities make a record of personal contact, and may use it in their decision-making." -
"Don't give up. Consider other routes into higher education before submitting another application." -
“Most unis have a live chat line for potential applicants staffed by current students or staff… An informed choice will be a better choice." -
"Aim to devote the majority of the personal statement to academic achievement and motivations…” -
"Have a look at course blogs to get a feel for what's happening… Find out who the academics who teach on the course are, follow them on Twitter, introduce yourself.” -
Work in small groups with the following vocabulary cards. Do translation and back translation. Make sure you’ve remembered the words. Then exchange your cards and try to remember as many words and collocations as possible. Be ready for a group quiz on ALL of the vocabulary items.
be confused about, be determined, cap’n’gown, show commitment, apprenticeship, be fascinated by…, grumpy-looking students
tuition fees, get a place, drag yourself to lectures, glossy photos, feedback, stand out, current staff
be worth it, pick a course, set on the path to…, crawl under a rock, leadership skills, arouse interest, bursary offerings