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The Campanile

The Campanile

The Campanile

Gap year alternative should be emphasized as viable path

According to The Campanile’s 2014-15 Annual College Map, 11 students indicated that they were pursuing gap years — the same number who reported enrolling at USC, one of the most popular for Palo Alto High School students. Many students use gap years to pursue a multitude of opportunities, from international travel to community service to work experience. As these alternative pathways become more popular for high school graduates, The Campanile believes that the College and Career Center (CCC) should advertise them as more viable post-high school options.

There are many times in which the CCC discusses post-graduation options with juniors and seniors, most of which are college-centric. At the beginning of second semester, the CCC hosts an orientation for juniors — presenting an overview of different college types, the general application process, and tips on identifying whether a college is a good “fit.” While gap years are mentioned briefly as a post-graduation options, we believe that the CCC can expand on this topic by presenting different organizations that offer gap year programs, talking about the advantages that gap years can offer students, and discussing the types of students that may most benefit from this opportunity. As this is one of the first times at which students are exposed to the CCC, it gives them the impression that the CCC can help students plan for alternative pathways besides college, and gets students thinking about these alternative opportunities early. 

Later on in the year, college advisers at the CCC have individual meetings with prospective college applicants in which advisers review transcripts, recommend colleges and discuss applicants’ interests, among other things. However, gap years are usually left out of the conversation unless applicants introduce the topic. We believe that the CCC can use this time to also present alternative pathways for after high school — most notably, taking gap years — as viable opportunities. In turn, students who were considering taking gap years can receive useful counsel on their benefits and drawbacks and those who were not may ponder the possibility of doing so. This advice is especially valuable seeing as gap years are often advertised for students who are unsure of their long-term career plans, which is only a small perspective in the larger framework of gap years. By providing specific advice about gap years tailored to each student, the idea becomes less abstract and instead takes shape as a pragmatic opportunity for enrichment.

Additionally, in the fall semester of students’ senior years, representatives from colleges present on their respective colleges, including information pertaining to collegiate opportunities, student life and the admissions process at each university. We believe that it would be beneficial for the CCC to also bring in representatives from different gap year organizations to present what they can offer students in terms of a gap year, and answer any questions about gap years students may have. In addition, bringing in Paly alumni who have taken gap years to speak on their experiences would be helpful in both assisting students’ decisions about taking gap years as well as providing them with specific ideas.

The Campanile believes that gap years are valuable experiences that students should be more exposed to during the application process. Ninety percent of people who took a gap year with Global Citizen Year and re-applied got into better and more selective schools, and all felt that they had a competitive advantage. Considering the CCC’s current advisement on the college application process and the magnitude of interest in pursuing gap years, we believe that the CCC can better promote gap years so as to provide students with complete and pragmatic guidance for their endeavors beyond high school.

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