The Harvard Gap Year
For more than 40 years, Harvard, one of the world’s leading universities, has encouraged its students to defer their freshman year into to take what’s know as a ‘Gap Year’. One of its most famous students, Malia Obama, took this option before taking up her studies.
The Ivy League School is not alone in its encouragement of gap years: In the UK, they have become an expected part of the transition between school and college for decades – annually, between 25,000 and 30,000 students take advantage of this option each year to have a break before continuing with their studies.
UPDATE: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been suggested that freshman should postpone starting college this fall and take a gap year instead to avoid missing out on the traditional Harvard experience.
Find out more here: ‘Dear incoming Freshman: Take a Gap Year!‘
Check out this article on the Harvard website explaining why they feel students benefit from taking a Gap Year.
Here are a few take-outs:
- Many speak of their year away as a “life-altering” experience or a “turning point,” and most feel that its full value can never be measured and will pay dividends the rest of their lives… Virtually all would do it again.
- The results have been uniformly positive. Harvard’s daily student newspaper, The Crimson, reported (5/19/2000) that students who had taken a year off found the experience “so valuable that they would advise all Harvard students to consider it”.
- Professionals in their thirties and forties – physicians, lawyers, academics, business people and others – sometimes give the impression that they are dazed survivors of some bewildering life-long boot-camp. Some say they ended up in their profession because of someone else’s expectations, or that they simply drifted into it without pausing to think whether they really loved their work. Often they say they missed their youth entirely, never living in the present, always pursuing some ill-defined future goal.
- [The idea of] taking time off can be a daunting prospect for students and their parents. Students often want to follow friends on safer and more familiar paths. Parents worry that their sons and daughters will be sidetracked from college, and may never enroll. Both fear that taking time off can cause students to “fall behind” or lose their study skills irrevocably. That fear is rarely justified. [Emphasis is ours]. High school counselors, college administrators, and others who work with students taking time off can help with reassurance that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
A few facts
- Individuals tend to outperform those who didn’t take a gap year, achieving on average a GPA of 0.1 to 0.4 per cent higher than predicted.
- National statistics show that half of medical school-minded students are taking at least one gap year, he says. The percentage is even higher – 60% – for undergrads at high-powered research institutions such as Johns Hopkins heading for medical schools nationwide. [The Journal Science]
- A study of more than 900 first-year students by Sydney University researchers has revealed that not only did taking a year off have a positive effect on students’ motivation, it also translated to a real boost in performance in the first semesters at university. [http://www.heraldsun.com.au]
[Statistics via The Gap Year Association]
Participants find their experience on our programs life-changing – check out what they say.
More than a ‘gap’…
So, at Africa & Asia Venture (AV), we are far from alone in our views of the benefits of taking this time out of formal training.
According to a recent article in Forbes, the gap year should not be viewed as a “gap” in education, nor a break from learning – it is an extension of it.
It continues… “our learning and lives should not be separate. They’re equally valuable and should come together to make a whole person, student and member of society. Knowing what we do about the professional and personal enrichment brought on by the gap year experience, and how positively it impacts academics and employability, it is time to rebrand gap years as one of the most significant educational opportunities we have.”
Time to get planning don’t you think?