Malia Obama announced she was taking a gap year before heading to Harvard University in 2017. But Malia isn’t alone. Taking a gap year--whether it’s between high school and college, during your undergraduate years, or after college--is a growing trend.
What is a gap year, exactly? We know “gap year” is a loaded term that calls to mind lots of different definitions, questions. So we’re here to bust the myths--helping you sort fact from fiction so that you can decide if a gap year is the right choice for you, too.
Myth: All gap year programs require you to move abroad
According to gapforce.com, the Unites States is the most popular gap year destination and has been for the last five years. It’s no coincidence that its popularity is in large part because of the tremendous challenges that our country faces.
Former first-daughter, Chelsea Clinton, launched an entire campaign encouraging you to consider doing your gap year in the US. With the help of Jimmy Kimmel, Chelsea put out this hilarious PSA sharing the sobering message that, “America faces many serious challenges: childhood poverty, low graduation rates, youth unemployment. But through AmeriCorps programs like Teach for America, City Year, FEMA Corps, and others, young people can be the force for positive change.”
Myth: Taking a gap year will put me behind my peers and harm my admissions chances.
A gap year spent serving with AmeriCorps or other organizations allows applicants the opportunity to gain skills that admissions representatives value in their students.
In fact, many colleges encourage their students to take a gap year. Tufts University’s 1 + 4 Bridge Year Service Learning program, for example, allows Fellows the opportunity to spend a year away from desks and school books, gaining invaluable experience through community service. Not only does this allow students the opportunity to gain real-world experience, they have the opportunity to explore their personal and professional passions--which will set the student up for success and allow them to focus their undergraduate work when they return to Tufts.
To learn more about how a gap year with City Year can help you prepare you for the next step, click here.
Myth: Gap years are for people avoiding “real world” responsibilities.
Gap years doing national service aren’t for slackers. AmeriCorps connects over 70,000 Americans with intensive service opportunities throughout the country, including over 2,000 programs that focus on education, the environment, public health and safety and homeland security.
During that time, you’re given the opportunity to learn real-world skills that are easily transferable to any role or job you’ll hold in the future. The American Gap Association even found that one of the top outcomes that gap-year takers report is that, "[it] provided me with additional skills and knowledge that contributed to my career."
Myth: My parents won't support this decision
It’s a parent’s job to worry about their children. So your parents don’t understand what City Year is huh? Or how a gap year will be a step in the right direction? Well here are a few resources that can help you make your case!
First thing is to be prepared for tons of questions from your parents. Make sure to hear them out, but also do your research! To help answers all those questions your parents are throwing at you, here are some FAQs.
After that, if your parents still aren’t sure? Why not show them what other parents think about City Year. Nothing convinces a parent more than when another parent tells them exactly what you have been saying the whole time.
While we supported the idea of a gap year and liked the idea of Jacob being engaged in a social enterprise, we knew very little about City Year and found ourselves doing due diligence during the short time between when he was accepted into the program and when he had to commit.
We became familiar with the website and tried to connect with folks in our lives that may be familiar with City Year. We heard only good things - and then came a particularly powerful endorsement from a family friend who is now the president of a Midwestern University. He said that he recommends a gap year for most high school graduates as they are better prepared for college and the college is better prepared for them, particularly men. Then he added, “City Year is the gold standard for gap year programs.”