25 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: are gap years a good idea?

It is important to decide why your daughter wants a gap year and what purpose it will serve her

Sanjeev Verma
2 Aug 2016 | 09:22 am

My daughter wants to take a gap year. Should she apply to universities in the US or UK before she takes it or after? Also, is it a good idea to take a year off before starting college?

Although it’s becoming more and more common in the US, the gap year has always been a tradition in Europe and Australia.

A gap year is, in essence, a break – normally for not more than a year – from studies after high school and before commencing college. The term is equally applicable for students after graduation, before they start with a Master’s programme.

The gap year can take various forms – work, travel, community service or even a year of studying something different. Each type serves a purpose so it is important to decide why your daughter wants a gap year and what purpose it will serve her.

She needs to consider how the travel will broaden her horizons, help her develop intellectually and emotionally and assist in achieving her personal and career goals. It’s generally felt that a gap year will assist students in developing new skills, improving cross-cultural understanding, and enhancing perspectives about the world in general. It tends to be a positive transformative experience for most people.

Today, admission officers feel that a gap year leads to mature and focused students with diverse experiences. For this path, your daughter must submit her request for a gap year along with her plans for it only after her application to college has been accepted. 
The admissions committee will make a decision based on her statement.

Should your daughter want to apply to college after her gap year, it is very important that she meticulously draft a plan of action to make sure the experience will add value to her application, and enrich her life experiences beyond what she experienced at school.

Parents, more than kids, tend to be apprehensive about a gap year and rightfully so. Travelling to foreign countries, while exciting, should be carefully planned, and it is advisable to use companies that specialise in organising such trips. But you should always keep in mind that a gap year is not a substitute for a college education; it only complements it. One should not get swayed by the money earned or the experience gained during this period to disregard going back to a formal education.

With Malia Obama opting to take a gap year, be sure its acceptance and popularity are going to hit new heights!

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor