What is Gap Experience? Perhaps you’ve heard it referred to as a Gap Year. The concept originated in the United Kingdom and is gaining popularity among US students, parents and colleges. Your Gap Experience is exactly that – an experience pursued during a gap between other endeavors – educational or professional. Typically, a Gap Experience takes place between finishing high school and starting college, presenting a better college profile. Continuing high school students, college graduates and professionals at a crossroads might equally benefit from time away for experience, reflection and growth.

Your Gap Experience doesn’t have to last for a year or any other set time period. A Gap might last six weeks, a semester, or a year. If you are a high school graduate wanting to delay university enrollment, your Gap Experience might consist of a single experience or several diverse opportunities. Your Gap may include work and travel abroad or directed internships or apprenticeships within the United States. You may participate in an organized program or create your own itinerary. Your goal is to witness and understand new things, to reflect on your experiences that naturally lead to personal growth.

Aren’t these qualities that university admissions directors seek? Imagine the inspired college essay you might write! Many admissions officers look favorably on applicants who have taken an indirect path or who offer evidence of maturity and self-direction, predictors of greater success as students. Harvard’s admissions office, for example, encourages accepted freshmen to take a Gap year prior to enrolling. In some cases, organized Gap Experience programs cooperate with university campuses and allow you to earn college credit.

It’s usually easy to convince students of the benefits of time away for adventure and/or travel, but your parents often have concerns. They worry, for example, that if you take time away, you’ll lose your academic momentum and never go to college. Ninety percent of Gap students return to college within a year, however, and Gap Experiences often reignite students’ academic curiosity and engines. When a third of today’s college freshmen drop out by the end of their first year, a Gap Experience may prove key to continued engagement and success.

Your parents are concerned about the costs also. While Gap programs often carry price tags similar to college tuitions, many organizations offer financial aid and/or scholarships. The academic and personal benefits obtained through Gap Experience may also offset future costs, particularly if yours leads to confidence, maturity and self-determination. You may graduate, and in less time, and as 88% of surveyed Gap alumni reported, be more readily employable.

LIFEmaps supports Gap Experience for the right students. Check back for our future blogs featuring specific Gap Experiences. In the meantime, link to LIFEmaps Resources and Services to explore opportunities.