What is a Gap Year?

All of us at Deer Hill Expeditions in southern Colorado are excited to announce our first-ever gap year program. We created the Gap Year program so you can explore Southwest landscapes and learn and grow over 70 days.  As with all Deer Hill programming, alongside learning backcountry hard skills, students will be focusing on connection to self, connection to others, and connection to place.  

But, what is a gap year? And what are the benefits of a gap year? In this blog, we explore what it could mean for you.

Gap Year 101

A gap year, according to the Gap Year Association, is “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and before career or post-secondary education, to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

We think of a gap year as an opportunity to expand thoughts and experiences. It usually happens between high school and college but can also occur at another in-between time in life. 

Gap years can take many forms, from participating in an organized gap-year program to traveling independently or working as an intern or paid employee. It can even be a volunteer experience doing something close to what you are thinking about for your career.

Although gap years are more prevalent in other parts of the world, they are gaining traction in the USA. Gap year opportunities can be structured volunteer or education-based programs, time off to travel, or a hybrid of both.

6 Reasons Why You Should Take a Gap Year

upper section of the san juan river – Deer Hill ExpeditionsSo why should you take a gap year? There are a multitude of reasons why taking a gap year in Colorado (or anywhere for that matter!) can be a beneficial and life-enriching experience. 

1 Broaden Your Horizons

The experience of a gap year is yours to create. You can apply for a traditional gap year program, do a shorter program coupled with time off to travel, or participate in various volunteer work during this time. Ultimately, the choice is up to you, and you can make your experience what you want it to be. 

There are tons of incredible gap year opportunities in fields like Archaeology, Conservation, Business, Healthcare, Education, Human Rights, Journalism, Sports, and much more. 

At Deerhill, our gap year program includes many activities and elements including mountaineering, mountain backpacking, whitewater rafting, canyoneering, leadership education, and service-learning. It is a unique opportunity for personal development. It can also give you time for reflection, honing leadership skills, and learning to live and grow in a tight-knit community of individuals.

2.  Build Important Skills

You can build skills in your area of interest. In some cases, you can even use your gap year experience as credit for college when you decide to start school. At Deer Hill Expeditions gap year program, you will leave with a broad knowledge of the geographical and social history of the American West. After completion, you can apply for Credits for Prior Learning (CPL) through the college of your choice. 

3. See the World Around You

Whether or not you decide to take a gap year in the USA or abroad, there are endless opportunities for you to see new things and experience new places. Taking a gap year gives you the time and space to see new parts of the world. We are partial to the American Southwest here at Deer Hill, but there are tons of unique opportunities worldwide that are safe and interesting to discover during your gap year.

4. Start College or the next Chapter Refreshed

A big benefit of taking a gap year is to rest, reset and refocus on what is best for you. So whether or not you decide to go onto a traditional college institution or not, this is a year to explore opportunities, relax, and refocus.

If you are suffering from burnout post-high school, a gap year is a great way to take the time off that you need while learning more about yourself and your goals.

5. Break the Status Quo

If you want to break out of tradition and explore yourself and the world, a gap year is a great way to break the status quo. 

According to the Gap Year Association: “In the United States, a recent survey of 300,000 first-year students at four-year colleges and universities found 1.2% waited, or deferred, a year to enter college, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.” Though this number may not seem high, it marks an increase in gap year popularity. So be one of the growing number of young adults to take a leap of faith and try a gap year today!

6. Have More Future Job Satisfaction

The  2015 National Alumni Survey showed that taking a gap year is tied to increased college GPAs and improved job satisfaction. In addition, it can help you hone in on your future career choice and ultimately help lead you to the field that fits you best. 

Things to Consider 

Lastly, there is a lot to consider when taking a gap year. From finances to the type of or lack of a program, gap year opportunities are endless. Here are a few tips to ease your gap year concerns:

  • Make sure to plan for applying or deferring to the college of your choice. 
  • Research types of programs you’re interested in and the costs associated with them.
  • Look into college bridge year programs as an option.
  • Think about your goals and align them with your chosen activity for your gap year. 

That’s your gap year 101. If you’re interested in the Deer Hill Expeditions, check out more information here.