Stepping Off the Beaten Path

So, you are thinking about a gap year…

Today, this longstanding British tradition is gaining momentum in the US, with Malia Obama’s decision to take a gap year opening new conversations on direction of education and how to best empower young people to become global citizens.

Questions such as these have led to a new era of encouraged college deferrals with the recognition that incoming gap-year students hold dramatically increased maturity, focus and leadership skills. Future employers alike are beginning to value the practical nature of job skills gap-year students can bring to the table.

The gap year movement has started in the states, and for good reason, is gaining momentum every year.

College pressure is real

Taking a break from the traditional path seems to make American’s a little nervous.  Deciding to do something different may be met with skeptical eyebrow raises and questions about long-term contribution.

Is this really a surprise? American high schools often supply students with plentiful resources to help in the sole goal of attending college.  Similarly, much of the high school experience revolves around standardized college testing, not developing self-awareness.

With so much focus on college preparation during this time, students feel continuing on to college after high school is the “expected” step.  Although it is pretty easy to complete college applications in American high schools and still taking a gap year by deferring, this is still an option few consider or even know is possible.

But it may just be this idea that may be a valid option for today’s American high school teens.  Because actually, most students returning after a gap year arrive to school as better college students than they would have without first taking a step back.

Work Hard, Play Hard, not so much it turns out

Some students will always hold the drive of knowing exactly what they want to do throughout their academic careers and are ready to keep going. Yet still, many are left unsure about the next step.

Today, students understand that bumming around for too long is irresponsible, but they also find it irrational to spend their lives in unfulfilling careers. Before heading off on a college career path, students often desire time for maturity, a time for exploration or growth, or time to refuel after academic burnout.

A gap year creates space to reflect on individual priorities, and to decide on the importance of fulfilling career choices.  As an added benefit, gap years students are often more desirable to prospective colleges and employers, as gap years help to shed light on passions and proven expectations.

Europe has been around the block

This “gap year” idea is actually not a new craze.  In fact, gap years have been in full swing for over 30 years in the UK. Today, UK based group travel programs, like Gapforce, are a popular draw to students all across the globe, looking for companies proven in committing to making a positive impact on the regions, countries and communities which volunteers and interns are sent.

Whether it’s a topic that students would like to learn more about, or a global issue they are looking to be more involved in, students are now seeking volunteer efforts that are vetted for sustainability and longevity. UK companies have spent years searching for local organizations and communities that will directly benefit from cooperation.

Gone are the linear path days from high school to career to retirement to, well that’s it.  The UK has long realized that planned time away is an important piece in the puzzle of self-knowledge. And it is this understanding that ultimately promotes the development of quality framework for global citizens.

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