As a college counselor, you know that success in higher education requires self-awareness, commitment, resilience, independence and the willingness to learn from new situations. And you want to make sure the students you advise are as prepared as possible.

You also know that some students are not quite ready for college and are likely to struggle when they get there. Others are craving a break or have a yen for exploration. Taking a “bridge” or gap year is becoming a much more accepted option. Research has shown that a break from academics helps students to be more motivated once they get to college. In fact, some colleges like Princeton, Tufts, and American University are now offering their own gap or “bridge” year programs to encourage students to get experience in the broader world before living on campus.  It didn’t hurt that Malia Obama, the President’s daughter, opted to take a gap year before she starts Harvard next fall.

TeenLife Media’s 2017 Guide to Gap Year Programs is the perfect resource for you, your students and their parents to explore this idea of a gap between high school and college. Articles and student testimonials describe how gap programs allow students explore the world, meet people outside of their own cultures and learn to be responsible for themselves. We have advice on where to find funding, grants or financial aid.

Gap programs don’t have to be exotic or expensive. Some programs have an academic component; others are focused on discovering new cultures or performing community service. Students can learn a language through programs like the EF Gap Year Program; volunteer abroad through Cross-Cultural Solutions or Raleigh International; work on academic skills at SOAR; intern in Washington, D.C. with American University or sail to Cuba with Ocean Passages. You’ll find those programs and more in our 2017 guide. If you use Naviance, more are listed in the Enrichment Program section of Family Connection, as well as on the website.

Students can also consult with one of the many independent gap advisors listed on to plan a year or semester that fits their budget and interests. Or, they can attend a USA Gap Year Fair, held throughout the country this winter, to find out about programs and funding.

You have a lot on your plate! Feel free to share the 2017 TeenLife Gap Year Guide microsite with your students and parents and/or download the .pdf and add it as a custom link in your Naviance Family Connection Portal. For assistance with or questions about accessing our listings in Naviance or on, contact

Hear Marie Schwartz discuss the benefits of a gap year in this Upgraded by Hobsons podcast episode.


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