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What to Look for in a Gap Year Advisor

"Travel won't help you escape your problems, but it has a way of giving you the time to see more clearly, to focus on what matters most to you for a little while, and perhaps to reinvent yourself."
-- Jennifer Miller of BootsnAll Travel Network


When googling gap year, many different options pop up for students which may feel overwhelming. There are some basic questions to ask before embarking on planning.

Jack H. tutoring in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Have you set realistic goals?
  • What do you want to get out of this gap experience?
  • Do you want structure?
  • Do you want supervision with a program leader who will act as a mentor and guide?
  • Do you want to have multiple, shorter experiences with flexible time frames without a specific itinerary?
  • Do you want to volunteer, work, or intern to test out an area of focus in college or potential career?
  • Do you want to learn a new language?
  • Do you need to work part of the year or semester to earn funds toward your gap experience?
  • How will you earn enough funds and are there additional funding resources available?
Consider a gap year consultant who charges a reasonable fee for their hourly rate. If they offer a package fee, are the services outlined in a detailed description? Choose an advisor who has at least five years of specific gap consulting experience (as opposed to an independent educational consultant or a high school college counselor who focus primarily on college prep and applications). Take into account what vetting criteria they use in choosing the safest, most reliable gap programs. Ideally, a gap counselor will possess a good understanding of family dynamics (whether it be as a parent of a teen themselves or by academic degree in social work or family counseling).

Most importantly, has the advisor undergone a gap experience of their own, for more than a few weeks outside the United States? This personal experience enables the counselor to understand what it feels like to learn another language in a new culture and to navigate public transportation, whether by ox cart, bush taxi, bullet train, pirogue, second hand bicycle, or dilapidated ferry. The consultant can relate to the anxiety of leaving home, the temporary discomfort of a foreign home stay, the angst in asking directions as a beginner in a new language, and to the myriad number of feelings inevitably experienced by a new gapper, because they have "walked in those shoes".

Empathy, with a clear understanding of the need for program safety and preparedness, especially today, is an important quality of an advisor, for both student and parent. Additionally, it is a real benefit if the gap advisor is also an experienced parent of a teen or twenty-something who comprehends the fear of "letting go with love" and of trusting in a program that will guide and mentor their child in a foreign country for months at a time. Finally, I recommend that you request recent testimonials from past gap clients which are useful for both new gap students and their parents.

Ultimately, an advisor will reassure families and underline the benefits that a gap experience provides a student-the chance to travel and "see more clearly" while learning about and focusing on "what really matters to them". This gift will provide a stepping stone and foundation for college and their adult lives beyond.

It is still not too late to apply for fall gap programs. Whether you have deferred for an entire year or just a semester, there are still a few programs remaining with spaces starting in September, but I strongly urge you to APPLY NOW.
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Marion Taylor MSW
Founder and Owner
Taylor The Gap, LLC


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