Fear and insecurity are common first responses when you find yourself considering a gap year. We all know the traditional well paved road from high school to college. We understand the clamor of anxiety surrounding college visits, college applications, GPA pressure, standardized test scores, and how to get into that prestigous college while snagging their best scholarships along the way.
I heard a student last week say, "Getting a 4.0 GPA just isn't good enough anymore. That is just average." Another student told me, "Most of my friends are applying to 25-30 colleges at least. I feel like I'm not trying hard enough if I only apply to 10."
That is the academic rat race. The ladder of success for high school students now shoots higher into the sky than many students can climb. But some students have figured out a different route and it is raising the eyebrows of admissions offices around the country.
Here is their non-traditional path:
Fall Semester Senior Year: Apply to their select colleges of choice.
Spring Semester Senior Year: Apply to their Gap Year of choice.
Late Spring Senior Year: Defer enrollment to their college of choice and begin their summer visas, vaccinations, and reading for their gap year.
Next Fall: Arrive to their gap year program, travel the world, discover oneself, and learn from other people, cultures, and organizations.
One Year Later: Arrive back in college refreshed, energized, and focused.
These students are coming on to the college campus as 19-20 year old global travelers with real world experience. They have a bigger understanding of themselves and a more realistic understanding of the global market. They are civic minded and service learners. In short, they are just different from the average incoming freshman. They think differently in the classroom and professors find that refreshing! They climbed a different ladder. They stepped out of the academic rat race and when they stepped back on to the track they found themselves running with a different pack.
The senior I met was right. Getting a 4.0 GPA isn't good enough anymore. But getting out in the real world with a global resume of experience before college could emerge as the new way forward.
Here is Kristen, current KIVU Gap Year student, teaching English in Rwanda.