Historically, the gap year has been about engaging in experiences that allow students to learn more about themselves and their place in the world. 

It’s also been a confidence booster for students who’ve simply lost their learning mojo just when they need it most.

All the data and anecdotal evidence point to the fact that the gap year is producing more engaged young adults who are outperforming their peers in college, getting higher GPAs and finishing college in closer to four years.

Still… there’s some fear about the gap year.

You don’t want to fund a glorified vacation (and you’ve heard that gap year programs are expensive).

You don’t want your child to lose momentum and defer college indefinitely (and never leave your basement).

No one wants that.

If you want a gap year to be productive, enriching and inspiring, then you need to set the intention from the get-go. 

Certified Gap Year Consultant, Jane Sarouhan of J2 Guides, joined me on Coffee with Kim to explain the 4 areas you should explore when deciding if a gap year is right for you. She also shared insights on how to plan strategically to make it intentional and affordable. 

Let’s walk through her helpful approach.

Leave stigma at the door

Because the gap year seems unconventional, it’s easy to let fear encroach on the consideration process before it’s even begun.

So give your student—and yourself—permission to go down the path of free exploration of your motivations. 

What’s your why? What issues are you hoping to address with a gap year experience? 

For some students it’s burnout, but for others it’s a strong curiosity about the world and a desire for self-discovery.

Sometimes a student simply needs a year of growth, maturity and confidence before diving into four, or more, years of higher education.

There’s no wrong answer. 

Don’t be afraid to say—or hear—honest conversation about why you’re considering gap year options.

Sail the ocean of possibilities

Once you’ve set your intention, the second step is brainstorming ideas to achieve it. Ask your student: if you could do anything with your gap year, what would you do?

Again, it’s important to allow a free exploration of ideas here. Let your student get it all written out without thinking about logistics, anxieties or budget (yet. That comes later.)

Set the anchors

Next, zero in on the 2-5 ideas that will become what Jane calls “anchors.”

Anchors are the things that keep popping out at you every time you look at your list of possibilities. Those are the primary goals you will plan your experience around.

Establish your budget

The fourth step in this exploration phase is to look at your budget, and it’s the last step for a reason.

You don’t want to restrict possibilities based on the potentially incorrect assumption (aka, fear) that it won’t be affordable for you.

J2 Guides has worked with students who are funding their own gap year with $500-$1,000 and families who spend $30,000 or more.

So there’s a wide range of possibilities to fit any budget.

You won’t want to miss the little known strategies for planning an affordable gap year that Jane shares during Coffee with Kim.

Next steps

This exploration process will go a long way towards eliminating your gap year fears.

We also address some nuts and bolts of planning a gap year, like:

  • How does the deferral process work?
  • How will a gap year affect admissions?
  • What can you learn from the experiences of other gappers?

Join the conversation to get your questions answered so you can reduce the unknowns and misinformation and conquer your gap year fear.