Whats a Gap Year?


Most northern VA students feel a pressure to continue their education at a four year institution immediately following graduation. But some students decide that they need an experience that expands beyond the walls of higher learning.

A gap year is a year between high school and college where a student can take time to explore different interests and become more self sufficient. Following in the footsteps of many European nations, some American students are now pursuing a gap year before they head to college.

A gap year can consist of many different experiences, however, so it is important to do some research.  Ms. Laura Venos, of Mclean Student Services, highlights organized gap year opportunities ranging from Dynamy, Seamester and CIEE, all organizations which target specific experiences and learning beyond the classroom. Some students may also just decide to take a year to work and save money as part of their gap year. A gap year is really whatever the student decides on how they want to spend their time.

Kendall Covington, a McLean High school alumnus, who graduated in 2017, decided to spend her gap year with The World Race, a Christian mission organization. This organization sends students all over the world, spending time in 11 different countries, over the span on 11 months.

“Taking a gap year was one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of,” said Kendall. “I had the chance to do so many things and witness so many amazing places, and I think that more students should have this chance. Taking a gap year with World Race made it very easy to line up exactly what I wanted to do, so I advise anyone who wants to take a gap year to do it with a program. This way you know what you are going to do and where you are going to go before hand.”

There many schools of thought on the benefits of a gap year. One advantage of a gap year is that many colleges and universities encourage it and it can help the application process. It gives you an opportunity to learn helpful life skills and can also help you determine your future career interests by exposing students to real life situations.  A gap year can also help students take a break from the stressful life of academics. Many people believe that it can significantly broaden the horizons of the students.

Conversely, some students feel that a gap year will put them behind their peers. In addition, others fear they will lose academic motivation once they leave that setting.  Cost can also be a factor in funding a gap year. 
Whatever you decide, the best advice is to do your research, think about your interests and do what is best for you.

Despite the pros and cons of a gap year, a gap year is anything you want it to be. “Choose where you want to go and what you want to do according to your needs, and you will be far ahead of the majority of college students,” Said Kendall.