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Why take a Gap Year?

5th November 2017

Why take a Gap Year?

Ralph Dennison first opened the doors of Oxford to American high school students in 1984, when he founded one of the first summer programs that invited students to live and study within the historical colleges. Since that time, Ralph has grown increasingly interested and dedicated to promoting the idea of taking a gap year between high school and college. While a common practice in Britain, gap years have been slow to catch on in America, leaving American students particularly prone to burnout, academic exhaustion, and difficulty coping with the first year of college.

Writing for The Educational Register this month, Ralph sets out the best reasons for taking a gap year, looking at studies that have been carried out on the surprisingly beneficial results of gap years by Stanford and Harvard Universities. To quote:

“In more recent years there has been a growing awareness of the stresses placed upon high school students, as they struggle to balance their schoolwork with clubs, sports, volunteer work and part-time jobs, partly in order to enhance college applications. Professional counselors encourage and assist an emphasis on ‘making the right choices.’ This fast-lane childhood can prove overwhelming and may take its toll on youngsters. Research by Stanford University on high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area reported that ‘almost two thirds… were ‘often or always’ stressed by schoolwork.’ Over half the sample reported ‘headaches, difficulty sleeping or exhaustion.’ Stanford expressed its concern about ‘rising levels of stress in high school and strategic gamesmanship in the admission process.’

“The shift in opinion about the value of a Gap Year is thus based partly on the recognition of burnout and of the benefit of re-charging mental batteries to avoid ‘staleness,’ but also on an understanding that stepping outside one’s comfort zone can both broaden horizons and increase understanding and empathy with others, add perspectives and spark interests and provide invaluable learning and working experience.”

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