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Revisiting the gap year concept

Jane in NC

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Hello all.  Now that The Boy is an official college grad (The Archaeologist), I don't hang around this board much.  But a friend mentioned something today which sends me back to my well trained experts.


Any interesting ideas for gap years?


Friend mentioned Americorps for her daughter.  I did not realize that Americorps took 18 year olds; then I cringed inwardly because the two college grads I know who had Americorps jobs (one in the inner city, another in a rural community) that seemed to require a level of independent living that I would not expect of an 18 year old.  Or am I being overly protective? 


I know that there are very $pendy overseas gap year programs overseas.  Has your student found an interesting program or have they followed their bliss with a limited budget?


One of my nieces had a gap as a nanny for another family member who resided overseas. This is ideal but not everyone has a family member in need of a nanny.  Are there reputable placement agencies?


I don't think the young lady in question knows what she wants to study in college, hence the idea of a gap. I'd love to know what you kids have done or any interesting resources you have stumbled upon.


Thank you in advance.

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Is this person homeschooled? If not, they may need time to deschool before knowing what they want to do next.


While it's great to travel the world or do an exciting internship or service project, the important thing is that she grows in ways that are meaningful to her. That could mean a lot of different things, depending on who she is as a person.

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No, she is not homeschooled.  She is a competitive swimmer, very athletic--but probably not NCAA material. 


I am not sure if she knows what she wants to do with her life, thus her parents are encouraging a gap. 


The kids I have known who have had successful gaps have taken them whilst in undergrad.  One young man needed to rethink his direction, which he did successfully.  Another student I know needed time to recover from a major illness. It also gave her time to travel and find solid footing within herself after her medical treatment. 


It seems more perplexing to me for an 18 year old who lacks direction. But, as I said, I wonder if I am being overly protective.  I was an adventurous traveler at that age!

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I just met some international students this summer who worked at the YMCA summer camp where I was volunteering as staff for a 1-week foster kids camp. Some were college-age, but some were international students who were between junior and senior year of high school! So that might be a possibility -- live and work somewhere in a safe situation where room and board and a small salary is provided, with older adult oversight, and ability to explore the environs on your days off with your similar-aged co-workers...


About 3 years back, I pulled together some info (Christian AND secular resources) on doing a Gap Year for families in my homeschool group. I haven't updated it, so there are very likely more recent info sources, and some of these links and resources may no longer be valid, but in case it helps, here you go.


Gap Year: Service

Use time with few responsibilities as unique service opportunity (volunteer work, missions)


National Resources:

- AmeriCorps

- National Civilian Conservation Corps

Experience Mission

- Global Frontier Missions


International Resources:

- Projects Abroad (college-age programs)

- Peace Corps

- Passport

Adventures in  Missions

- Youth Quest


Gap Year: Exploration/Widen Horizons

Use time with few responsibilities as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (adventure, explore)


Resources for Wilderness Gap Year (adventure, short-term employment in wilderness, eco volunteering, outdoor service)

- Outward Bound 

- Adventures Cross Country

- National Civilian Conservation Corps (now a sub-group under AmeriCorps)



Resources for Living/Working Abroad

Earn expenses while gaining experience and widening horizons  (examples: au pair; cruise ship staff; teach ESL; work in a summer camp/winter resort…)

- The Student Room, article: "Free or Cheap Gap Year Ideas"

- Gap Work.com, "Fund Your Gap Year", link to "Au Pair Care"

- Gap Year.com article and links to jobs, "Gap Year Jobs Abroad: Work Overseas"


Gap Year: Personal Development

Work on maturity (job; career exploration; personal finances and life skills; academic skills)


Resources for career exploration:

My Future (occupation search via career, college or military path)

California Career Zone  (career interest test, occupations)

- U.S. Bureau of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook

- Career Clusters  (career exploration by 16 groupings of occupations)

- list of links to past threads, end of post #5 of the pinned thread at the top of the high school board: "Transcripts… Career Exploration -- links to past threads here!"


Resources for personal finance and life skills:

- Dave Ramsey Foundations in Personal Finance DVD and workbook set (Christian)

Personal Finances by Larry Burkett (Christian)

Essential Survival Guide to Living on Your Own by Sharon Siepel (Christian)

Life Skills 101 by Tina Pestalozzi (secular)


Resources for working on academic skills, study skills, etc:

- Study Guides and Strategies -- links to loads of articles and how-to

- Long each City College: FREE videos teaching study skills

- University of Melbourne list of links

- past threads: "Study Skills"; "I finished the Study Skills class proposal"




Planning a Gap Year:

- listen to your student; resist the temptation to provide unsolicited advice


- use this as a learning and maturing opportunity:

a. brainstorm ideas with your student, but have your student do the research

b. help your student develop decision-making skills and problem-solving strategies

    "How will you deal with _______?"

    "What about _________?"

     "What is the process for _________?"


- do lots of research


- make a specific "game plan"; write down decisions and expectations:

a. set limits on how much you will financially support the gap year

b. start and stop dates

c. what the student will do/accomplish

d. list, and then learn, any skills that will be needed during gap year

e. list, and then learn, any emergency contingencies:

    * health training (First Aid, CPR, vaccinations, illness prevention/recovery, etc.)

    * personal safety (travel, theft, finances, fire, etc.)

    * emergency contacts


- tentatively plan for the transition after the gap year:

a. where the student will live (if living at home, work out general expectations of one another (young adult living in parents' home — household chores and meals; rent or no rent; expenses; noise lights/hours; entertaining/going out; etc.)

b. what student will do (work, school, internship, apprenticeship, follow-up opportunity from the gap year….)



Gap Year Resources:

Gap Year

Planet Gap Year

USA Gap Year Fairs

Teen Life: Gap Year Programs for Teens

The Complete Guide to the Gap Year by Kristin White

article: "50 Inspiring Gap Year Ideas for High School Students"

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Lori, you continue to be amazing!


Thank you.




You're welcome! And Jane, I still have up on the bulletin board by my desk a rustic wood carving print for Taming of the Shrew that you sent when you so kindly donated an Algebra 2 textbook to me. As per your request, I donated the text again when we were done with it -- to a local homeschool family on an extremely tight budget. :)


Thanks for your kind generosity and friendship! :)

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PS -- I FORGOT!! BIG financial concern here if the student will be going to college right after the gap year:


The BIG thing to be aware of about in taking a gap year is that the student can NOT take ANY college courses of any kind (in person, online, CLEPing, interning for credit, etc.), as those credits will automatically bump the student into TRANSFER student status, and out of FRESHMAN student status, which will bump the student from being able to apply for freshman scholarships after the gap year.


Freshman scholarships are very often for larger amounts of money, and are often renewable (student can reapply for it in next years of college). In contrast, there are far fewer transfer student scholarships available, they are usually for smaller amounts of money, and they are far more frequently one-time awards (i.e., good for only 1 year).

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This is out of left field, but hey, consider the source :tongue_smilie:


My oldest spent a year doing the Disney College Program in Florida, and it was a great experience.  They guarantee 35 hours of paid work/week, provide safe and inexpensive housing, and also provide transportation, and offer extensive career training.  There are all kinds of jobs, too, whether being a lifeguard, or waiting tables or operating rides or being a janitor.  (Janitorial was one of the favorite departments in the program!!).  I didn't hesitate to send my rather innocent 18yo across the country for the program because they quickly weeded out the partiers, the security for the housing area was tight, and they even had inspection once a month -- a messy apartment could mean getting kicked out of the program. The program is filled with kids from all over the world, too.  On Christmas night my ds texted to say he would call later than expected because "I'm having dinner at Applebees with the Argentinians"!  


You have to be enrolled in college to apply, but my ds was only a part time student at a community college when he applied.  He already knew what he wanted to do with his life, but he wasn't quite ready for college and it was a great year for growing up and getting a feel for what the real working world is like.


And yes, he got discounted hotel rooms when we visited, AND free admission for us to the parks. 

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My daughter ended up just working two jobs, then going on a 5 week trip to Europe with a friend (they made all the arrangements).  The mind-numbing work of retail and life guarding solidified her desire to go back to school.  She also learned it would be great to have a decent paying job to travel more.

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Thanks so much for these ideas, Ladies.  DS is considering taking a gap year. I think he needs some time to mature academically and think more deeply about what he'd like to do. He's a good student and wants to go to college, but he has LDs and may need a breather to refresh him. I'll show him the gap year options and see what he thinks.

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Hi Jane!


One of Sailor Dude's good sailing friends is currently taking a gap year and is teaching English in China.


So far, her experience has been amazing, but I think this works for her for a number of reasons:


1. She wants to be a special education teacher. This is giving her experience living abroad and working in a related field.

2. She is a competent, mature, mentally healthy person who embraces life and it's challenges. Motivated, but easy-going at the same time.

3. She was a strong high school student with good grades and test scores and has been accepted at colleges the caliber of George Washington.


Sailor Dude would like to do something similar and I hesitate. His level of self-discipline is probably not on par with his friend's and I think his wanderlust could potentially get the better of him.  I don't feel the same conviction that he would go on to college after a year abroad.



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