Last month, we learned that Malia Obama, oldest daughter of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, will attend Harvard University, but only after first taking a gap year (also known as a bridge year). This type of educational trajectory has traditionally been more common in Europe, but Harvard actually encourages the practice, and around 100 of their students choose to take advantage of the option each year.
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It’s easy to see why this kind of program would be a great fit for a lot of students; there are many benefits of taking a gap year, although there are some potential drawbacks to consider as well. It can be a tough decision, and if you do decide to go for it, you’ll have a lot of choices to make. So, if you’re considering taking a bridge year, here are a few resources that might be able to help you find your way toward the experience, and journey, of a lifetime.
For over 35 years, the Center for Interim Programs has helped students plan the gap year experience that’s right for them. The consultant firm acts as your researcher, strategist, mentor, and coach as you work through the process of planning and executing your gap year. Contact them for more information about their services and program.
The American Gap Association is a “nonprofit accreditation and standards-setting organization” for gap year experiences. While they feel a gap year isn’t the right thing for every student, one of their primary missions is advocating for the normalization of these experiences in higher education and serving as a “hub for data” for gap year research. Check out some of their most recent research or contact them if you’d like more information.
When the earth was first being charted, unknown areas were marked with images of dragons or other mythical creatures as an indication that the mapped-world stopped here. The bridge year organization, Where There Be Dragons, uses this imagery to explain their work, and their philosophy around “global citizenship and leadership programs: along the map’s edge.” Contact them for more information about their services.
Thinking Beyond Borders approaches the gap year experience as an opportunity for field work, personal growth, and service. They are committed to helping students learn how their passions and skills can be applied to help others, and through cultural immersion with expert guidance along the way, students are able to explore this dynamic for themselves. Contact them if you’re interested in learning more.
Request more information from this organization if you’re interested in learning about their programs, which send students on apprenticeship journeys in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Global Citizen Year trains their “fellows” in global citizenship and leadership, and supports them throughout a process specifically designed to help them maximize the college experience once they return from their travels.
A gap, or bridge, year is not meant to be a vacation, so be sure to do your homework if you’re considering going this route. It’s not that these experiences are more difficult (or less difficult) than your typical college experience – it’s just that they’re very different. If you think that a gap year might be a good fit for you, it’s definitely worth taking some time to explore your options.
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