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Education Vacation: What Is a Gap Year?

Apr 27, 2011

From about the time we hit our sophomore year of high school, we are geared toward college preparation. Take SATs, fill out applications, schedule campus visits. Then graduation, and enjoying fewer than three months off before entering the world of academia once again. But an increasing number of students across the United States are choosing to take the road less traveled when it comes to transitioning from high school to college and beyond. Enter: the gap year.

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By Harrison Howe

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Become a Student of Life

A postsecondary education should be about more than preparing for a career. Self-discovery, inner reflection and exposure to and participation in a variety of interests and activities should also be part of the experience. But philosophy classes and extracurricular activities offered on a college campus aren't always enough. A non-traditional but structured year of carefully chosen life experiences catering to personal interests can afford a much-needed break from tests and textbooks.

A gap year, or a year between high school completion and college entry without formal education, can provide the opportunity for students to engage in activities that may help them grow and mature mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Students can sign up for missionary trips, donate time to community services, travel abroad or participate in internships. Whatever they choose, the experience can prepare students to take on their college years with more maturity, focus and confidence than they might have had before their gap year experiences.

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Life After the Gap Year

Don't worry: gaps are not bottomless pits. In other words, taking those twelve months to discover yourself doesn't mean you'll never go off to college. It's never too late to attend college. If you've already been accepted, chances are the school you wish to attend will reserve a spot for you the following year. Or you could simply re-apply to new schools. Whatever the case, be assured that many colleges and universities throughout the United States, including the likes of Harvard and Princeton, are not only accepting gap years but are encouraging them as well.

When you're ready for college, funding may be one of the first things on your mind. Check out these five unusual scholarship opportunities.

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