|Small School, Open Minds • Michigan Reward School 2012|
| 401 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
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Jennifer Hein, Dean
In This Section
1. Taking Time Off, by Jennifer Gross
Taking Time Off
by Jennifer Gross
Maybe you’re tired of the academic grind. Maybe you’re not sure why you’re going to college or what you’ll do when you get there. Maybe you yearn to explore far-away places or a career that interests you. If this sounds like you, perhaps now is the time to consider taking a year off between high school and college.
“While there is significant peer pressure, parental pressure, and school pressure to go right on to college, the adventurous few who take time off are richly rewarded,” says David Rynick, executive director of Dynamy Internship Year (MA). “Taking time off before college gives you the gift of time to learn about two essential things: yourself and the world around you.”
Of course, if your time off consists of nothing but watching soap operas and eating potato chips, all you’ll have at the end is a wasted year. But with research and planning, you can design a semester or year that is both a great learning experience and a lot of fun.
Where Do I Start?
The essential component of successful time off is planning. There are plenty of resources for students, including books, Web sites, and your high school counselor (see below). At your school or public library, look through a guidebook or two on travel, internship, volunteer and other opportunities for high school students. What types of programs appeal to you?
Once you have an idea of what opportunities are available, think about goals you should have for your time off. Do you want to travel abroad? Learn a new language or improve your foreign language skills? Help others, either at home or abroad? Explore career interests? Challenge yourself in the outdoors?
“Have something meaningful that you want to pursue,” says Shaun McElroy, director of college counseling, Escuela Campo Alegre, The American School in Caracas Venezuela, who took a year off between high school and college.
What Are My Options?
There are thousands of options for time off, as well as infinite combinations of activities. Some students participate in year-long programs. Others may combine two or more short-term programs, or plan a trip on their own or with friends. Here are some common ways to spend your time off:
Travel: Many organizations offer programs with an emphasis on traveling or living abroad. Or, you may wish to plan your own adventure.
Internships: Spend some time working in a career field that interests you. If you enjoy it, you’ll have even more incentive to succeed in your chosen college major. If it’s not the field for you, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore other career opportunities.
Volunteer work: You can find volunteer programs both in the U.S. and all over the world. You could build houses, work with children, work on environmental projects, or a host of other activities.
Academics: Students who are not pleased with their high school records might consider a postgraduate (PG) year. The goal for a PG year is to strengthen your academic record in the hope of gaining entry to a better college.
Work: Whether you find a job at home or away, a year of work can give you extra funds to pay for college, plus valuable, real-life experience.
What About College?
Once you’ve decided to take time off, it’s tempting to chuck the whole college search until next year. But that’s not a good idea, for a number of reasons.
First, the college search and application process is much easier while you’re still in high school. You have easy access to your school’s college resources, your guidance counselor and teachers, and several modes of communication. You don’t want to be filling out applications and trying to get counselor recommendations while you’re working in the rainforests of South America.
Second, having your college plans in place can go a long way toward convincing your parents that you will go back to school after your time off. “My parents were scared that I would never go to college, but by applying I demonstrated my seriousness,” remembers McElroy.
So go ahead and complete the college admission process. Then contact the college you plan to attend and ask that your admission be deferred for a semester or a year. Most colleges are very receptive to students who want to defer their admission. “Admission people across the country encourage the idea of time out before matriculation,” says Bob Gilpin, owner of Time Out Associations (MA).
All of this can make you even busier than your classmates senior year.
“Taking a year off is actually more work because you should apply and get accepted to college as well as figure out what you are doing for the next year,” says McElroy.
What Factors Should I Consider?
Rynick lists these questions for students to consider when planning their time off:
What do I want to learn?
Another big factor is your budget. Talk to your family about your plans and about what you can afford. Some programs cost very little; others can be very expensive. Don’t forget to plan for living and travel expenses as well as program fees. Students on a limited budget could consider working full-time for a summer or semester to pay for a semester-long program later in the year.
As you research and plan, don’t limit yourself too much. “Take a risk,” says McElroy. “Living outside of your comfort zone is an important factor in growth.”
“A year off is an adventure,” says Rynick. “Don’t expect it to be easy. Welcome the new challenges you encounter as you enter into the ongoing process of creating the life you want to lead. The real question of life is beyond college credit.”
Written by Jennifer Gross
More Grads Taking ‘Gap Year’: Students postponing College to Pursue Service, Interests
(AP) – Around the time her former high school classmates are cracking college textbooks, Perrin Ireland will head to Honolulu, Hawaii, to assist in a research project with dolphins.
While they’re brushing up for fall semester finals, Ireland plans to be in South America, taking Spanish lessons. The end of their freshmen year will find Ireland in Greece, studying Aegean art and creative writing.
It’s what the English call the “gap year,” a traditional break between high school graduation and college. Prince William took his three years ago; royal Prince Harry began his gap year earlier this month.
And in America, it’s becoming more commonplace among students well-off enough to take a year to indulge their interests.
“I guess I’m really in no rush to be done with college,” said Ireland, who has put off the start of her education at Brown University. “So I figured there was no harm to give myself an extra year to digest and explore.”
Not only are many colleges amenable to deferring admission for students like Ireland, some—such as Harvard University—actually recommend a year off before starting classes as a means to mature emotionally and intellectually.
“It’s not that people find themselves in a year and then walk off happily into the sunset,” said Gail Reardon, the owner of “Taking Off,” a private Boston-area counseling service that helps students, such as Ireland, plan sabbaticals.
“But it does start a process of learning skills and looking at yourself. It gives you the maturity, self-esteem and independence to think outside the box. It’s an evolution.”
Reardon said a gap year offers young people the first flush of freedom from parents, minus the academic obligations of higher education.
“For me, college wasn’t my first time without a curfew,” said Colin Hall, who co-authored “Taking Time Off” and who backpacked through Africa before attending school in the late 1990s.
John Bloch of Cincinnati, Ohio, an aspiring culinary arts major, is postponing his freshman year to spend 10 months as an AmeriCorps volunteer teaching underprivileged children, building homes for Habitat for Humanity and cutting trails for the National Park Service.
“It’s just a personal choice of mine to help and support the country and learn more about myself, the community I live in and the United States as a whole,” he said.
It’s just a personal choice of mine to help and support the country and learn more about myself, the community I live in and the United States as a whole.
John Bloch, student postponing college to be an AmeriCorps volunteer
For students unable to raise the money, of course, skipping a year before starting college isn’t an option. Reardon acknowledged that the gap years she helps to arrange attract “middle and upper class kids by virtue that it does cost something.”
Drew Harry said the benefit of deferring his start at the Olin College of Engineering could never be measured in monetary terms.
After a year in Europe, Harry arrived at Olin’s Needham, Massachusetts, campus last fall more mature and eager to learn at an engineering school that opened its doors just two years ago. Olin also encourages incoming students to take a year off.
“It made the college transition a lot easier,” said the Providence, Rhode Island-native. “I could focus more on academics because I was more self-reliant. I could handle myself. I could get my laundry done and get groceries and stupid things like that.”
To guarantee they’ll still be able to attend the school of their choice, Reardon and other counselors advise students taking a year off to go through the admissions process prior to asking for a deferral.
Once that deferral is granted, they suggest spending the year pursuing areas of interest related to their college studies.
“I always recommend, don’t take a year off, take a year on,” said John Boshoven, a counselor in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Don’t count it as a year that is separate from your life, but connect to what you want to do the rest of your life.”
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Gap Year Suggestions
GlobalQuest is mostly for high school seniors and students taking time out between high school and college offering 12 week semester study programs in Thailand where students undertake a significant individual research project, study Thai Language, Thai History and Culture, and Thai Natural History and Environmental Issues.
Peterson’s study abroad link – do college work overseas? http://www.petersons.com/stdyabrd/us.html or http://www.studyoverseas.com/
Ithaka, it’s a great program for bright kids who beat to a different drummer. Very hands on, in Crete. 504-269-2303
Ridley is an Ontario school near Niagara Falls offering a PG year. We have 620,students from 30 countries, including a couple dozen from the USA. For full details, visit our website.
St. Stephen’s School in Rome has a PG year program. You can read about the school at http://www.ststephens.it
Oxford Advanced Studies Program at 203-966-2886 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.oasp.ac.uk A year long program in England – also offer summer program.
The Institute for Int’l Cooperation and Development A small nonprofit org that has a fee for training and placing young people in internationall volunteer positions.
Time Out Associates: A consulting firm for students planning time off. http://www.whereyouheaded.com
http://www.GapYear.com: A large site about time-off options, including students’ diaries about their year off. This is from the perspective of the United Kingdom, where gap years are very popular. Americans may need to “translate” a few things, such as references to money in British pounds.
Check other websites at:
Walkabout High schools in NY participate as well as students using it as a fifth year experience. The program combines personal insight experiences, group experiences and internships. The head of the programs is Eugene Lebwohl, the phone number is 914-248-3610 or 3612.
National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming, Outward Bound and Student Conservation Association provide environmental and outdoor experiences that can have a positive impact on students/people.
Postgraduate Year Possibilities
The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) is a very useful way to pursue information about individual schools.
Consider a Gap Year in Israel!
by John B. Boshoven
I worry when a student comes to me, their Counselor, and announces, “I am going to take a year off before college.” There’s nothing wrong with taking extra time before college, but a student should have a definite plan for the year. A recent study indicates that simply taking a “year off” can be more detrimental than helpful, but other studies and empirical evidence are extolling the virtues of “gap years” with programs that are organized, focused and goal oriented. Rather than calling this year a “year off,” I prefer to call it a “YEAR ON!” MASA (meaning journey) and the Avi Chai Foundation, generously sponsored a recent mission to Israel by a group of national college counselors. This mission was the first sponsored event of guidance and college counselors to Israel. The idea of the trip began with a parent last year.
“So you know a lot about American colleges,” he queried?
Rabbi Lee Buckman, The Jewish Academy of Metro Detroit’s Head of School, needed little to encourage this challenge. He immediately invited me to accompany the schools’ seniors last May on their annual 3-week Israel adventure, but being under public school contract, I could not get away during the school year. So, taking all my vacation dates into account, he convinced the Jewish Agency’s MASA initiative and the Avi Chai Foundation to sponsor a group of influential counselors from throughout the USA to travel to Israel this month and “sample” many programs that US teenagers could avail themselves of. MASA has been subsidizing students who have financial need for 5-10 month programs that build a solid connection to Israel.
And travel we did, for 7 days, landing in Jerusalem, visiting 5 of the 7 universities, several “gap-year” programs and a few yeshivas (religious schools). I must admit I’m “bursting” with information. But overall, I’m inspired to recommend that students consider not rushing off to college if taking more time to know themselves, or to experience another culture might be more beneficial. Colleges are happy to defer that first year of college if the student has a reasonable goal and does not matriculate to another college in that year. “Where’s the race,” posed the 17 year old? “This year is about my soul, my character, my inside development. College will be there next year, and I’ll be more ready to benefit from it if I know myself better.” Spoken from the mouth of babes.
Students from the Orthodox traditions have long seen the value of a year in Israel following high school, and MASA’s outreach is aimed at the Conservative and Reform student who may not have yet seen the value of a closer connection to Israel. Gap year in Israel fits well after the many teen travel opportunities offered by USY, Young Judea, BBYO, NFTY, NCSY, and others. Birthright Israel has been a phenomenal 6 year experiment allowing students 18-26 a 10 day free trip to Israel. Over 100,000 youth have already participated. MASA’s mission and vision is to further encourage Jewish youth to spend more time in Israel after teen travel and Birthright.This can be done best either by a Gap Year or First Year Experience just before freshman year begins.
The students we met were passionate about their Gap Year experiences, from the community service to the classroom, each telling a compelling story of young adult adventure within the security of a supervised program.
The first program we visited was Young Judea’s Year Course, combining experiential opportunities through travel, volunteering throughout the country and by an academic component. They also feature a similar program for Orthodox students called Shalem. We also visited a soup kitchen and ambulance station where YJ students were learning and serving. From the halls of the brand new headquarters and youth hostel, a student told me, “It’s a chance for me to grow up; I think I’ll be a more focused college student.” Another smiled, “It has already helped me to be even more sure of what I want to do.”
The Nativ (meaning path in Hebrew) Program, associated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, also features a balanced and supervised program combining academics at Hebrew University or yeshiva study and community service or kibbutz volunteer service. Our team joined in traditional dance with children at a day care center, and toured the Absorption Center in Beersheva where immigrants begin their new lives. Other students live on kibbutz where they are also involved in leadership training. Students we met raved about their experiences, “I’ll never have or will take this chance again. Some say they will do it later, but college and career life has a way of dominating your choices. This experience is helping me start the rest of my life.” Another finds it to be a, “great way to find out who I am. (Israel) is a cool country to be in when you’re 19!”
The Alexander Muss Program is a popular high school program which is launching a gap year program called SIACH. This pluralistic program boasts of its non allegiance to any particular brand of Judaism, but rather will seek to help students “find out who they are and what they believe.” SIACH has started small, and will be growing in the next 1-2 years and will combine academics and community service in a base overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Carmel Program at Haifa University is connected to the Leo Baeck High School and Educational Center and the Lokey International Academy of Jewish Studies and affiliated with the Israeli Reform Movement. Their three-tiered emphasis combines academic study at the university, a beit midrash (prayer, study and leadership) component, a close-knit community living in dorms together and community volunteering. Carmel is associated with NFTY and seeks to bring together committed and mature Jewish students who seek to be Jewish leaders. One leader stated, “Reform used to connote secular, but slowly more kids are becoming Jewish-American.”
The Rimon Music Experience offers a creative alternative for gap year students. Israel’s largest independent professional music school, Rimon offers majors in composition and arranging, film scoring, song writing, jazz and general vocal and instrumental performance, music production and engineering.
Israel hosts many yeshivas, or religious schools. We were mighty impressed by Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi, located in a modest Jerusalem suburb. This simple facility was filled with young men in deep (and loud) study when we arrived at 9:00PM. They’d been at it since 8 that morning, and one young man smiled when we wondered about his long days and weeks, “It does take discipline to be a good student.” Another student raved about her experiences studying at Midreshet HaRova in old city Jerusalem. She beamed, “This is such an enriching experience. I talk to my friends at college and I am growing in such different and richer ways. They seem the same and uninspired whereas I am becoming a whole and deeper person.” And still another at the Workshop for Habonim Dror, a Zionist, socialist youth movement, finds herself, “learning to think, argue, wonder and work in community where all things are in common. Sometimes it’s hard, but we are growing so deep and our conversations are so meaningful…I’m almost worried that college will feel more superficial next year.”
Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Rothberg International School was our first college visit. Perched on Mt. Scopus overlooking the Old City, HU features an international student body from over 40 countries, and hosts many non Jewish students. Their yearlong freshman program features Hebrew and Jewish studies, but students may take any class taught if Hebrew language is sufficient. Degree-seeking students earn a BA in three years, and all like the Jerusalem locale. One student remarked, “I feel like I’ve really become part of the world here.”
Ben Gurion University of the Negev resembles an oasis in the desert, just minutes from sand and camels. David Ben Gurion, Father of his country, first envisioned the blooming of the Negev Desert when the borders were assigned in 1948. The city of Be’er Sheva is pretty gritty and poor, so the university is seeking to play a major role in creating jobs and relocating industry to this city, 4th largest in the country. Israel’s fastest growing university already at 18,000, boasts strong science and engineering, with a less religious, more diverse student body, resembling Purdue or Florida State. The school’s Center for International Student Programs promotes a strong student activity roster and a concerted effort to mix the international students with Israelis.
Tel Aviv University’s 29,000 students reflect their community: more cosmopolitan and secular. Foreign students study in the Lowy School for Overseas Students but freshmen students are not numerous. Most international students take advantage of their junior year abroad programs.The city and campus community resemble Miami, with bright buildings, tall palm trees and plenty of sunshine, with the ocean just a short bus ride away.
Bar Ilan University’s Foreign Student Programs houses about 70 foreign students who live in community several blocks away, and feel supported and tended. Bar Ilan, although not a religious school but state supported, tends to find more religious kids happy and feeling a part of things. A student smiled and confessed, “I guess we are a little more right wing,” and he also liked the independence of college life. “I’m treated like an adult.”
Lastly we visited the University of Haifa, perched on breathtaking Carmel Mountain, in a setting that resembles a cross between Rio and San Francisco. Their Department of Overseas Studies seeks to grow into a whole school to be named “the International School of the University of Haifa,” with more courses taught in English, more student integration into Israeli society and creation of a more caring community with religious and geographic diversity. The university is seen as Israel’s most diverse, and the city is sometimes criticized for being in its own world. One professor joked, “Haifa has just recently recognized the state of Israel.”
As a counselor and as a father, I would consider taking the sage advice of the 17 year old, “what’s the race; college will be there when I’m ready.” Israel has many opportunities for study and service. Click here for a complete MASA listing or contact email@example.com.