5 reasons not to do a Gap Year, and 10 reasons to start planning one now! – By Rita Golden Gelman

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Hi, my name is Rita Golden Gelman and I have no home and hardly any possessions. I am homeless, but I’m not poor. I’ve been traveling around the world for 27 years on the modest royalties from my kids’ books. You may have heard of More Spaghetti, I Say!   I’ve also written a book called, Tales of a Female Nomad, where I talk about my life connecting with people in Mexico, Central and South America, Indonesia, India, Thailand, New Zealand….and lots more.

Living a nomadic life has opened my heart and soul and mind; and the lifestyle has brought me incredible joy. It’s also led me to some dramatic conclusions. The most impactful is the following:  if the U.S. had a population that has interacted with other cultures, on a face-to-face level, we’d be a much more compassionate, respectful, and understanding country. And I think we’d be a lot closer to peace in the world. How the world sees and treats us depends on how we see the world.

I think the most important thing that happens to people who are lucky enough to live in other cultures, is that they realize that people, wherever they are and whatever they look like, are really all the same. In every culture people laugh and sing and eat and pee. Tribal people in New Guinea who hunt with bows and arrows, smile and cry. Like us, they love their children and share their food; they are sad when people die. And they are curious about the world they live in.

I want more than anything to create a U.S. population that has crossed borders and connected with other cultures. The question is, how do we create that population? After a lot of thought, I have decided to focus on encouraging high school students to take a year (or even a month!) after they finish high school to travel. It’s a custom in England, Australia, New Zealand, Germany. Why not in the U.S.? There are already programs set up. There are lots of ways to fund it. Many colleges are happy to defer entry for a year. Colleges know that students who have done an international Gap Year are more confident and motivated. A Gap Year gives them direction and self-esteem. Employers consider it an advantage to have employees who have experienced other cultures. It’s a win, win experience.

If the idea is relatively new and you don’t know what you think about it, have a look below. Which group are you in?

I hope to see you here again next month when I will write some hints about some strategies I use to connect to people in other cultures. I hope you will choose to change the world with me.


Don’t even think about doing an international Gap Year (or semester or month) if:

  1. You think learning has to take place in a classroom.
  2. It’s never occurred to you to question some of the rules that your parents and teachers have planted in you, such as, “You have to go directly to college or a job once you graduate from high school.” They’ve convinced you that going to college immediately after high school is like going to first grade after kindergarten. It’s predetermined.
  3. Your future is clear and you’re convinced that seeing the beauty, observing the wisdom, or experiencing the pain of poverty and the richness of life in traditional cultures would just get in the way of your goals.
  4. You can look at the tiny dot where you live on the world map, and you have no curiosity about all those other countries and ways of life out there.
  5. You’re certain about what you want to major in and what you want to do for the rest of your life, and your choice is based on knowing who you are and an awareness of the many different options that are out there. You’re afraid that if you are exposed to ideas and situations, you might question your decision. Besides, you and your family can’t afford a Gap Year. It’s just for rich kids.



On the other hand, start saving and working and exploring the many different ways to do a Gap Year; and check out the programs and scholarships that are available to high school graduates if:

  1. You think it’s time for a break from classroom learning.
  2. You’d like to explore the world and yourself a bit before you begin college or get a job.
  3. You’d like to connect with people who are different from you and learn about other ways of life.
  4. You’re not afraid of a little hard work to earn the money or find a scholarship that will get you into a Gap Year program.
  5. You want to contribute to peace and understanding in the world, and you know that in order to do that, you have to get to know that world, firsthand.
  6. You’d like to find out who you are when you’re on your own, responsible to yourself and not to parents and teachers.
  7. You are intrigued by the challenge of crossing borders, the experience of tackling difficult situations, and the independence of thinking for yourself.
  8. When you look at the tiny dot where you live, you know you that you are cheating yourself if that’s all you ever experience. You believe that the first-hand experience of another culture will be very different from reading about it in a book.
  9. You know that most employers these days consider it an advantage to hire young people who have experienced the world beyond academics and national borders.
  10. You’re not afraid to research the options and figure out how you can finance a Gap Year. You know that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.

Discovering the Gap Year – By Robin Pendoley

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Author: Robin Pendoley

Robin Pendoley is Co-Founder & CEO of Thinking Beyond Borders, an educational gap year program. He is also Co-Director of the USA Gap Year Fairs.

Discovering the Gap Year

It’s a growing trend among high school graduates. Take a minute to learn about it whether it is right for you…

What Is a Gap Year?

A “gap year” is typically a period between completing high school and beginning college. This time can be either a semester or a full year away from traditional classroom studies.

While there are countless reasons to consider a gap year, the most important is that gap year students are generally better prepared for college. Well-structured gap years provide opportunities to develop personal and social maturity, academic focus, and a sense of direction. With studies showing as many as 50% of college freshmen dropping out before graduation, it is clear that opportunities for this type of growth can be crucial.

Beyond preventing dropping out, gap years can help ensure students get the most out of their college years. Recently, an admissions director at a prominent liberal arts college told me that analysis showed gap year students on his campus performing significantly better in the classroom and the college community than those who enrolled on the normal track.

What does a typical gap year look like? 

Gap years come in all shapes and sizes. They can include participating in an organized program, working or interning in a field of interest, volunteering with a local or national organization, pursuing athletics, or traveling. This time away from a traditional classroom provides students of all types crucial opportunities to:

  • Gain “real world” perspective and direction that give the college years meaning and purpose
  • Develop maturity and independence by joining professional communities as a volunteer or employee
  • Attain the deep understanding of our local and global society that traditional schooling rarely provides
  • Pursue various fields of interest to test or define a career path

Should I consider a gap year?

EVERY high school senior should consider a gap year. The benefits listed above make a good case for it. Yet, many students and families believe there are lots of reasons not to take a gap year. Let’s take a moment to dispel the MYTHS that stop them from taking a look at gap year options:

  1. They are too expensive – Gap year opportunities range from those that cost the same as a year of college to those that will pay you a stipend and an education award to participate. EVERYONE can afford a gap year.
  2. They are only for students who aren’t ready for college – Programs and individual options vary greatly, offering opportunities for essential learning and growth for all types of students.
  3. There is a strong risk that students won’t go back to school – While there is always this risk, experts with decades of experience in the field estimate that 90-95% of gap year students who were on a college track go back to school immediately following their time away from the classroom.

For more information on gap years, please see the following:


Gap Year – MTV Style

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Gap Years are becoming increasingly popular, … how popular? you ask.  Well, popular enough that MTV is doing a special show based on students doing a Gap Year.  While American Gap Association doesn’t itself have any say in the selection of these participants, we would like to encourage as many submissions to MTV as possible!  So all of you videographers out there, and all of you starting on your Gap Years this semester, get out those lenses and show MTV just how transformational your Gap Year is … or will be!



“Are you one of the many high school students taking a year off from school after graduation to gain life experience before beginning college? Are you planning a cross country trip, working a summer job or taking advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity?

MTV is looking for current high school seniors who plan on taking a gap year after they graduate in May/June 2013 for a new documentary. If this sounds like your situation, please send a VIDEO introducing yourself and explaining your gap year plans to mtvshowcasting2013@gmail.com and be sure to include contact information and a recent photo.”



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