Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - March/April 2016 - (Page 28)

Gap Year A TIME TO RECHARGE, SERVE, AND GROW W hen did you start thinking about college? For a lot of high-achieving students, the answer is middle school, or even earlier. As the college admissions process has grown increasingly competitive, students work harder than ever to earn top grades in the most challenging classes, build a strong résumé of extracurricular activities in which they've assumed leadership roles, and earn high SAT or ACT scores. When all of this hard work pays off in the form of admission to a selective college or university, the last thing on a student's mind might be the idea of deferring their enrollment. Yet many top colleges support students doing exactly that. Harvard, for example, "encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way." All of the Ivy League schools and many other selective schools have similar policies. College admissions officers know that many students today are leaving high school exhausted. They know that students have spent so much time pursuing advanced coursework for the sake of college admissions that they haven't had the opportunity to explore their true interests in any meaningful way. Some students, after spending four years becoming the ideal college applicant, have no idea what they actually want to study in college, or what they might do afterward. This type of uncertainty can also create stress. A year or semester away from academics can be exactly what these students need. Spending some or part of this time engaged in a service project can benefit both the student and the community where they work. By living away from home-whether abroad or in another part of the country-and immersing themselves in a service experience, students gain emotional maturity, self-confidence, a sense of independence and responsibility, and self-awareness. All of this comes with the added reward of making a difference for others. When these students head to campus for their freshman year, it is usually with an enhanced perspective, greater focus, and more energy and enthusiasm for their coursework. With all the benefits a gap year or semester offers, why don't more students do it? Some fear deviating from the well-worn path of high school to college to grad school or career; some worry about entering college older than other freshmen. For others, although several gap year programs offer financial aid, a gap year might still seem financially out of reach. And of course, many students leave 28 imagine high school refreshed and excited for college, knowing what they want to study and why, and simply don't feel the need for a gap year. Some students who might not plan to take time off are offered deferred admission to a college they've applied to. Colleges including Brandeis, Skidmore, and the University of Southern California offer some students admission starting in January instead of September. Middlebury College began offering deferred admissions decades ago and now offers students the option of applying for the spring semester. The "Febs," as Middlebury's second-semester enrollees are called, make up about a sixth of each freshman class. At Hamilton College in New York, the "Jans" make up about 10 percent of the freshman class. For these students, the fall semester offers a chance to explore, travel, serve, and grow in ways that will help them succeed in college and beyond. If you think a gap year might be right for you, be sure to read the deferral policies of colleges that interest you. You will likely need to make your request in writing and explain how you will use the time before you enroll. Many colleges will specify that you may not take classes at other degree-granting institutions, and you will still need to pay the deposit to guarantee your space the following year. If your deferral is granted, you'll be free to embark on your amazing gap year journey-whether in another country or another city-knowing that college will be waiting for you on your return. AMERICORPS ISTOCK.COM/ROBERTO A SANCHEZ by Melissa Hartman No Mar/Apr 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - March/April 2016

Big Picture
In My Own Words Senator Barbara Mikulski
Run, Ride, Sell! Funding causes that matter
Start Something! Initiatives by kids, for kids
Changing Lives, One School at a Time Making a difference for students in need
Empowered to Make a Difference The Civic Leadership Institute at CTY and CTD
Sharing the Gifts of Music The Forget-Me-Not Family Ensemble
Service, Leadership, Entrepreneurship . . . Launch! Learning the art of the startup at MIT Launch
Sharing the Rewards Building a shadowing program for my peers
Discovering the Leader Within Exploring leadership and social justice at Brown
Gap Year A time to refresh, serve, and grow
Research at the Edge of the World An Antarctic photo essay
Selected Opportunities and Resources
Off the Shelf Review of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See
Word Wise
Exploring Career Options Interview with entrepreneur Henry Albrecht, CEO, Limeade
One Step Ahead My college startup
Planning Ahead for College Skills and knowledge for college success
Students Review: Lehigh University
Mark Your Calendar
Knossos Games

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - March/April 2016