College-Bound take time off

October 26, 2001

College-Bound take time off




They call it "the gap": Either taking the year off between high school and
college or some time out between freshman, sophomore or junior years.
A small but growing number of students are choosing to take the time off to
travel, dabble in various careers or become missionaries, college admissions officials
say.  Some use the time to serve in the military, which gives them generous tuition
breaks once their tour of duty is over.
Academic burnout, increasing competition among high school senior for choice
college spots and crowded campuses are contributing to the students' decisions.  At
Dartmouth College this past spring, officials offered a $5,000 tuition break to any
student willing to defer entrance for a year.
After Elizabeth Greiner from Rye Brook, N.Y., attended Northwestern University
in Evanston, Ill., for a year, she realized it wasn't for her.
"I wasn't happy there," she said.  She took three months off to join Sea-mester,
a program that allowed her to take regular college courses while learning to sail in the
Caribbean.  But the program is pricey: $12,000 for the 80-day voyage.
"Being away made me feel independent and more confident," says Miss Greiner,
now a junior at Georgetown University.  "I felt I could make my own decisions.  The
most interesting experience I had was learning how to sail.  We took our classes on
board.  It was hard, but I am glad I did it."
She got the idea from a Boston-based group, Time-Out Associates, which
provides college-bound students with resources and advice on using up one's gap year.  
Founder Robert Gilpin has helped students spend their time in Spain, Italy, Nepal and
other destinations.
"We find programs that best suits the student," he says.
Miss Greiner says she filled out several questionnaires to help determine what
she would do.
"He then matched me with the best program that suited me.  I never thought
about learning how to sail but I thought it would be interesting," she said.  "He can
help anyone in the world find their destinations."
For students who cannot afford his $1,600 consulting fee, Mr. Gilpin has created
a Web site, www.whereyouheaded.com, where subscribers can search Time-Out's
database for $50.
It lists research opportunities for productive summers, alternative education
opportunities and provides information to help students choose the best college for
them.
For the middle- and lower-income students who want to defer college studies,
there are other programs.  AmeriCorps, a government volunteer-service program for 18-
to 24-year-olds, engaged more than 40,000 participants in 2000, almost six times as
many as a decade ago.  Volunteers serve as teachers or tutors in poor communities and
get room and board and money for college.

by Kelly Ball, The Washington Times

updated: 9 years ago