Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Note: This review is from the 2009 version of this book. A newly updated second edition was published in 2019.
The Complete Guide to the Gap Year: The Best Things to Do Between High School and College is a great tool that will come in handy for parents, educators, and students. This book covers topics such as whether or not a gap year is right for you, post graduate year options, college admissions and gap years, how to pay for a gap year, and much more. It also includes feedback from students who have completed a gap year. One of the best features of this book is the list of gap year opportunities that cover a wide range of topics including volunteering, studying abroad, sailing or tall ship options, language gap years, sports gap years, marine life programs, and post graduate year schools. The list includes options for students who are 18 and older or younger than 18.
The Complete Guide to the Gap Year provides helpful questions that readers may want to ask themselves when considering whether or not a gap year is for them. For example, are you burned out, frazzled, or not enthusiastic about college? Are you mature enough to live in a dorm on a college campus and deal with the challenges of college life? Will taking a gap year make you a more competitive applicant to your dream college? Would you benefit from an experience that allows you to be truly independent?
As many of you have experienced, or are currently discovering, gap years are becoming more and more common. With today’s educational options and rapid pace of life, students are graduating earlier for various reasons. Whether it’s because you’ve been accelerated, decided to homeschool and have been allowed to work at your own pace, traveled around the country and developed a unique school situation, or attended a rigorous prep school, the point is students are graduating at different ages and it is becoming more and more common.
One thing in particular The Complete Guide to the Gap Year stresses is that a gap year is not a vacation. “Colleges and employers know that students who have finished a structured gap year are young adults who have direction, maturity, and a unique view of the world. The gap year is more than just a trend. It is a movement in education that recognizes our global economy, our shrinking borders, and our need for public service” (p. 7). You may be wondering what exactly students do during a gap year. Some students may explore their interests in the arts, learn about another culture, or volunteer abroad or domestically. Other students may choose to contribute their time to an environmental cause or conservation issue, or improve their academic skills in a postgraduate year, and so forth.
Most students are thrilled with the possibility of taking a gap year, but it isn’t always planned. For example, what if it is your dream to attend one university in particular and they defer your enrollment or you are declined? Should you apply again? Will a gap year make you a more desirable candidate? Another challenge with the gap year option is the cost. Some gap year opportunities may cost as much as first year tuition at a highly selective school. This is not an option for many families. The Complete Guide to the Gap Year provides helpful information on ways to finance your gap year and offers details on options that are free, affordable, or rather costly.
Rather than having to do online research, this book provides all of the information you need when it comes to researching the pros and cons of a gap year. This book will save you time; it’s one-stop shopping if you’re contemplating a gap year. At one point in time, it may have been looked upon in a negative light. But now, “many faculty members and admissions officers consider it an important part of the educational process, one that encourages personal growth and maturity” (p. 21). It’s reassuring to know there are a wide variety of options available to students who graduate early or need some time to unwind before college, and that there is a growing trend to slow down, think about what is best for you, and avoid burn out.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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