In spite of recent studies showing that students who have take a year off — the “ Gap year” — before starting college are less likely to graduate student, more colleges are encouraging college students to do just that. A few even proceed so far as to offer aid to college students who wish to defer their admission plus use their gap year to gain practical experience in one of a wide range of fields.
A new system at Tufts University hopes to eliminate the financial barriers keeping cash-strapped students from taking a year away from after high school to travel or volunteer, offering an opportunity now typically only available to more affluent students to explore different communities and challenge their particular comfort zones before starting college, AP reports.
This “ gap year” program launching this fall will pay for housing, air travel and even visa fees, which can often add up to $30, 000 or more.
Although gap years are more popular in Europe, they have began to gain traction in the United States. About forty, 000 Americans participated in space year programs in 2013, an increase of nearly 20 percent considering that 2006, according to data gathered by a nonprofit called the American Gap Year Association.
Princeton University began offering full aid in order to need-based applicants in 2009 and almost 100 students have participated, volunteering in Brazil, China, India, Peru and Senegal. The University associated with North Carolina offers $7, 500 in order to gap year applicants, while college students at Wisconsin’ s St . Norbert College can receive financial aid based on need, although airfare isn’ capital t covered.
Lydia Collins, 19, a Tufts freshman from Evanston, Ill., said she got a gap year because she wanted to see what was outside of the classroom before committing to four more years of school.
“ Lots of kids are very burnt out after high school, ” Collins said. “ Taking this time to be with your self and see yourself in a new community and light will only help you to flourish in college. ”
Collins worked in microfinance in Ecuador through Global Citizen and said the experience inspired her to go after international relations, something she would not need known about beforehand.
Students who take part are able to view the world beyond the bubble they grew up in and return to school with a better perspective of their long term, said Holly Bull, president from the Center of Interim Programs, which counsels students on taking space years. Bull said the benefit of the structured time away from school is too valuable to exclude lower-income college students.
“ Students go back to the classroom more focused, independent plus confident, ” said Bull, who have took a gap year himself to Hawaii and Greece, plus said the students also generally have less trouble adjusting to dormitory life.
“ This experience taught me that every thing I learn in the classroom will be able to help me when I leave Princeton, ” said Jeremy Rotblat, a 19-year-old Princeton freshman from Cherry Hill, N. J., who said his experience volunteering at a hospital within Senegal better prepared him just for college. “ It is easy sometimes to question the purpose behind all the school work. But seeing the value direct encourages me to push personally academically. ”
Learners selected for Tufts’ 4+1 system will be able to defer their admission to get a year while still remaining associated with the university through video chat and email. Tufts will work along with organizations including Global Citizen, City Year and Lift — that offer volunteering positions in areas such as education, economics, health and the environment — to create packages that fit students’ financial needs, including travel plus living costs.
Patrick Callan, founding president of the Nationwide Center for Public Policy plus Higher Education, applauds the gap year experience, but said structure is key.
“ Sometimes, available motivated students, taking a year away from could lead to them never coming back, ” he said, adding that college students that go in without concrete goals can be sidetracked from their studies. “ You need to come in having a plan. ”