Although I have emailed him numerous times, had any number of phone conversations with him, and have personally interviewed Ethan Knight in the past, I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in person along with other likeminded student gap year programs at the first-ever American Gap Association's (the AGA, americangap.org) conference in Baltimore, MD.
Attending this event was inspiring in many ways. Not only did it allow some of our Winterline staff members to introduce our program into the growing gap year marketplace, but it also gave us the opportunity to share industry knowledge, marketing know-how, and key insights into the "gap year movement". Yes, that's what Ethan Knight and the AGA are championing—that all students take a gap year before college. And he's passionate about it.
Defining a gap year:
One of the key takeaways that many of us in the gap year industry forget is the fact that taking a gap year is still foreign to many people. (Foreign, lots of meaning here, I think I'll keep it!)
You'd be surprised to see how many students, parents, guidance counselors, and even Independent Educational Consultants really don't know even the simple definition of a gap year and what types of students, "gappers", really are.
At the most basic level, the AGA describes a gap year as a structured period of time typically taken between high school and college when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with possible careers. Typically a gap year program combines traveling, volunteering, interning, or working. Of course, some students take a break in college to embark on the journey as well.
Breaking down the 5 types of students that take a gap year:
In a general sense, you can probably drop every student into a "category" or bucket; however, it was interesting to hear the AGA's definition of the types of students that gap year/study abroad programs should consider in their mix. They broke down gap year students into these 5 categories:
1. High Achiever
They've worked extremely hard throughout high school, but are extremely burned out. They attend a gap year program to get a renewed sense of the world and further inspiration to ramp up for college academics.
2. Meaning Seeker
These are typically the students who are certainly smart and capable of conquering high school and delivering quality work, but have lower GPAs. These are the students that come out of a gap year knowing exactly what they truly want to do in life.
As the pure definition states, this is a student who is oriented toward a clear goal and is focused on reaching that goal with a particular approach and line of action. Taking a gap year makes sense to them. No ifs, ands, or buts...They understand that the life lessons and skills learned on a gap year will carry them to college, to a career, and to future success.
These students typically are struggling either emotionally, socially or academically, or all three. Those with learning differences, etc. All gap year programs should welcome the opportunity to help these students gain confidence, independence, social engagement, etc. The list of benefits for these students goes on and on and on...
5. Immature Floater
These students are sort of, yes, floating. They may or may not even know that they're not mature enough to move on to college yet, or discover what their future might hold. A gap year for the immature is the perfect opportunity to clarify their life path.
Why it's important to look more closely at the types of potential gap year students:
Because although taking a gap year in general offers a lengthy list of benefits, certain programs can be a better fit—the better choice, the right choice. Families should take some time researching gap year programs best suited for their "one of five" students, do their due diligence, and keep an open dialogue to select what will work. Of course, I'd love every student and family to pick Winterline!
It was a pleasure to meet Ethan Knight and the American Gap Association's team. Take a look at his personal viewpoints on the benefits of taking a gap year for students—and why a gap year is so important—in this Gap Year ROI video.