Largest Cohort in Program History: Gap Year Gains Momentum

Organization making a global bridge year a new rite of passage in American education welcomes 114 Fellows this summer.


Global Citizen Year, a non-profit social enterprise reimagining the “gap year” as a purposeful “bridge year” for emerging leaders, announced Monday that its eighth cohort of Fellows will be its largest to date: 114 outstanding young leaders selected from across the country and world.


The new Fellows, who will descend on the Bay Area in late August for training at Stanford University, hail from 26 states and 18 countries, and will spend the upcoming academic year in communities in Ecuador, Brazil, Senegal, and India for a combination of cultural immersion, cross-sector apprenticeships, and leadership training.


“In an age when global skills have become indispensable, it’s time to reboot our notion of what it means to be ‘college-ready’,” said Abigail Falik, Global Citizen Year’s Founder and CEO. “This is not a ‘gap’ you fall into; it’s an integral bridge and launch pad for our next generation of leaders.”


By immersing a diverse corps of fellows in developing countries during a bridge year after high school, Global Citizen Year prepares them for success in college, careers and the global economy. Long-term, the organization envisions a world in which this bridge year becomes a common expectation and opportunity –transforming education, and unleashing the potential of the next generation as social innovators and global citizens.


“Jake came out of Global Citizen Year a changed man,” said Claude Stern, father of 2012 Ecuador alumnus and Brown University graduate Jake Stern. “He is fluent in Spanish, mature beyond his years, and has developed remarkable confidence and independence. Beyond this, he was exceptionally motivated to start college.”


Since its inception, Global Citizen Year has been committed to ensuring that each cohort is composed of high-potential young people who reflect the country’s economic and racial diversity. To date, 80% of Fellows have received need-based financial aid – compared to 12% in the gap year field – and one-third have received a fully-funded scholarship. Among the 2016-17 cohort, 45% identify as people of color and 47% identify as coming from a low-income background.


“I was able to join Global Citizen Year because of the financial support they offered, and that’s a common thread among many of the Fellows,” said Joan Hanawi, a 2012 Ecuador alumna and recent UCLA graduate. “Without it, many Fellows would never have opportunities for experiential learning at the global level, and the diversity of knowledge from their own life journeys makes the peer cohort a richer learning environment.”


Global Citizen Year has grown tenfold since its founding year and emerging evidence shows that its 450 alumni are thriving in college and early careers. Notably:

  • 91% of Fellows return proficient in a second language;
  • 94% of alumni are persisting in or have graduated from college;
  • 95% of alumni say that Global Citizen Year was the best preparation they could have had for college; and
  • 97% have recommended other students to join the program.


“Coming out of Global Citizen Year, I had what I now call a sense of purposeful confidence,” said Ananda Day, a 2010 Senegal alumna, who later graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and now works at Carbon3D, a cutting-edge 3D-printing company. “I saw this play out in a sort of competitive advantage. When I first applied to my company, I was an outlier – a liberal arts product in a high-tech company. My resume got me in the door but the experiences, purpose, and flexibility I gained through Global Citizen Year got me the job.”


Global Citizen Year’s 2015-16 program cycle was full of milestones, including the launch of a new program site in India, where Fellows work with mentors from Teach For India in high-needs schools; an innovative collaboration with Tufts University, which encourages incoming freshmen to take a Tufts-sponsored bridge year before completing four years on campus; and a new partnership with the United World College, which allows high-potential high school graduates from all over the world to complete a bridge year with Global Citizen Year before matriculating to college.


Moreover, Global Citizen Year’s 30% cohort growth is indicative of broad momentum around the bridge year movement. Malia Obama announced in May that she will take a bridge year prior to enrolling at in college, and more than 120 colleges have signed Harvard’s “Turning the Tide” report, which highlights the bridge year as an integral part of de-escalating the college admissions arms race.


“What if, instead of getting to college burnt out, today’s students arrived with a set of burning questions?” asked Falik. “What if all high school grads took a year before college to step outside their comfort zone, learn a new language, explore their passions, and become global leaders? That is the movement we’re building.”


Global Citizen Year’s application for the 2017-18 cohort is now open. Read more about the program and recent press.


Contact: David Omenn,