Gap Year

Rebranding the Gap Year: A look into Global Citizen Year

For the longest time,  the gap year was assumed to be for the rich or the academically burnt out who needed a sabbatical before they embark on four years of higher education. However, the gap year is anything but a holiday. Abigail Falik, in a New York Times Article challenged us to rebrand the gap year, “When used intentionally, the year before college can be a bridge, a launch pad and a new rite of passage. It’s the students who find the courage to step off the treadmill – replacing textbooks with experience and achievement with exploration – who are best prepared for life after high school.” Many universities look at a gap in a good light. Bill Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s undergraduate admissions dean, wrote a manifesto about the need for students to take time off before college. Rick Shaw, Stanford’s undergraduate admissions dean, now speaks about the value of non-linear paths and the learning and growth that come from risk taking and failure, as opposed to perfect records. PrincetonTufts and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have recently developed “bridge year” programs that encourage – and pay for – students to spend a year immersed in the world before arriving on campus.

This means that students aren't using this as way to just relax, they are leaning new things, finding jobs in careers that they might want to explore in the future, and doing Service. When we look at a resume the last thing we look at is if the candidate has been involved in a service project or not. But what if that was not the case? What if a year of service could be an effective way to not only understand yourself but the people and the world around you? A lot of student have moved toward doing just that. One of the leading gap year programs in the US is Global Citizen Year, a nine month excursion into countries such as Senegal, Brazil, and India where students live in a homestay and work in meaningful places. In India students work with Teach for India and an NGO for girl child education out of Hyderabad. In Senegal, the students work in creating sustainable infrastructure. Students love the program even though it costs as much as a year in a public college (though most US citizens get financial aid). As an Indian you can apply for the program but may only be eligible for financial aid if you are a student at one of the United World Colleges. 

Apart from GCY, there are other service opportunities in India as well (U Chicago’s Delhi office runs a lot of service immersion programs). Contact us and we can guide you in the right way. 

How to Make the Most of your Gap Year

There are a lot of opportunities to explore when you take a gap year. Students, learn new languages, invent apps, work in part/ full time jobs, create companies, and most importantly travel. According to the American Gap Association ( over 85% of gap year students (“gappers”) wanted to travel in order to see the world and experience other cultures. 

Regardless of the motivation, the time off can be helpful. Srini Pillay, M.D., Harvard psychiatrist, academic adviser, and author of Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused, can relate a number of advantages students may have as a result of time spent away from academia during a gap year.

In his book, he outlines exactly how time off such as a gap year can benefit the brain. Some examples include activating the default mode network of the brain – what he calls its unfocus circuit. This area of the brain increases creativity, improves memory, enhances a sense of prediction about the future, and re-energizes the brain.According to Pillay, “Time away, even when it seems irrelevant, can enhance creative solutions because the brain has time to shuttle around old memories, recombine puzzle pieces, and invent new and fresh approaches to life.”

The American Gap Association surveys alumni to gain further insight into the benefits of taking time between high school and college. The most recent reports show that:

• More than 80 percent of respondents said they would recommend a gap year to someone who was considering it.

• The most meaningful experience for the majority of respondents was being in a new and different environment.

• Also important was the increased exposure to new experiences.

• Gappers may even get better grades when they get to college. Undergraduate students who had taken a gap year before enrolling earned 0.1 to 0.4 higher GPAs than students who didn’t, according to studies conducted by Robert Claggett, former dean of Middlebury College.

Overall, gap years can be extremely fruitful if planned well. Having your parents or a gap year counsellor help you plan your year may help greatly increase your chances of making the most of your year! Contact us for more information about how to plan a gap year.