Why don’t more students take gap years?

Hugo Santiago - Ecuador


June 1, 2016

Are you thinking about taking a bridge/gap year after high school, but keep running into doubts and self-discouraging thoughts? Here are 4 reasons to put away those excuses and get ready for adventure!

 

Just a year ago, I was contemplating whether I should follow the norm by going to college after high school or take the year off to follow my ambitions. I chose to take the leap! Now, I’m returning home to Los Angeles after my 8 month expedition to Ecuador with a bridge year program called Global Citizen Year.

After a year of apprenticing at a foster home, hiking volcanoes, and eating cuy and potatoes, I know I made the right choice. So, let me share with you how to resolve those doubts that keep us from embarking on bridge years!

 

Doubt #1

If I take a gap year, colleges/scholarships will think I’m apathetic and won’t accept me.

 

Not true! Whether you defer or decide to apply to new schools, colleges will want know what you’re doing during your bridge year, and this is a good thing. This is your chance to show why you stand out as an applicant! Organically, as the months progress on your bridge year, you’ll begin to discover things about yourself. You will learn more. You will understand more and you will just have a better story to tell because people want to know WHY you decided not to follow the norm! Just to let you know, there are many colleges, such as Harvard, Princeton, and Tufts, that encourage students to take a year off before starting school!

Plus, you can use the additional time to surf for scholarships or work on scholarship applications. I recently had two friends who used their gap years to apply to the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which involved writing eight essays that they had an entire bridge year to write. Guess which two of my friends won the Gates Millennium Scholarship?

Taking a gap year can actually help you get into better colleges and win scholarships!
Congrats again to the homies Austin & Cisco!

Doubt #2

But if I take a gap year, I might lose my admission letter and scholarship.

 

Okay, so what if you were already accepted into an amazing college-with a scholarship? Looking back, my excitement about traveling abroad quickly turned to anxiety when I realized I had to say no to the college I planned to attend in the fall as well as the scholarships I managed to win throughout my serious year.

The following thoughts ran through my head on those summer nights:

  • Would all the sleepless nights I put into my applications go down the drain because of my gap year?
  • Would I be able to defer my scholarships?
  • Could I even ask for a deferment?

 

I wish someone had told me to relax—that I’d be all right. Global Citizen Year wrote me letters of deferment, and I was able to defer everything! People naturally just want to help you out, especially if they find out you are a young woman/man fresh out of high school who plans to venture off into another country. So let them help you out! Be responsible bridge year enthusiasts, get those deferment letters done ASAP, ask for a recommendation from your gap year program, and don’t be afraid to schedule a one-on-one Skype call with your college/scholarship’s representative to tell him or her in person why you are taking a gap year in the first place!

Taking a gap year after high school does not mean you will lose your college admission or scholarships.

Be prepared to travel 🙂

Doubt #3

I will be lonely during a gap year, so I should just go to college like my high school friends.

 

Yeah, sometimes you will be lonely …there will actually be a lot of nights you feel lonely. I know, I lived it…and I loved what I learned by living it. I loved it because when I came back home I learned to appreciate my family and realize just how childish it is to slam a door in front of their face when they were just trying to ask you how your day went. You’ll see the days of loneliness disappear after you come to know the locals, create bonds with people of your province/village/city and learn the language around you! You will even be surprised by just how enthusiastic people across the world are about learning English from a native speaker-you! Plus, at Global Citizen Year you’re part of a cohort of awesome Fellows who will be there for you no matter what. 

 You will make incredible friends during a gap year abroad!
This is me celebrating New Year’s with my Ecuadorian friends by dressing up like the eighties.

Doubt #4

I shouldn’t take a gap year abroad because it’s too dangerous in other countries.

This is the biggest doubt I personally faced before heading off to Ecuador. “What if something happens to me? What if I die? I don’t want to die yet; I’m only 17 years old.” What made me overcome this doubt? I was literally robbed in a Subway four weeks before my training would commence with my bridge year program. Then, I realized, risks are everywhere in life and everywhere in the world! The important thing is being smart about managing risks. Global Citizen Year trained us Fellows on how to stay safe abroad plus we always had support network in place. Now, as I return to LA, I appreciate being able to stay out more with because of the city’s added nightlife, yet miss Ecuador’s “No Gun” government policy immensely. 

Certified gap year programs like Global Citizen Year will support your health and safety while abroad.

Oh Ecuador, I miss you already!

Final Thoughts

The worldly experience and global perspective you gain during a gap year.

 

If you’re able to get past the doubts and fears above and are ready to embark on a bridge year, just know this…
The world isn’t always what you think it is. When you get back, everything will seem different and, at the same time it’ll feel as though it hasn’t changed… Yet as you return, you will become aware of cultural differences; this experience has not only benefitted you to be a more worldly person but will have benefitted the greater good as well. You will be more tolerant of other people’s political opinions, more appreciative of certain aspects of your home country, and more aware of certain aspects that you’d like to change. Ultimately, you will come back a Global Citizen.

 

Hugo Santiago