Yesterday the New York Times reported the first family has decided for Malia to take a Gap Year.  She’ll be attending Harvard University in the fall of 2017, but before she embarks on her University life, she’ll be taking a year away from the academy.

I think it’s interesting, the Obama’s decision to send Malia on a Gap Year.  After all, she’s probably had a view of the world very few of us will ever have.  She’s attended state dinners, met with “first children” from around the world, and attended one of the highest profile private schools in Washington DC.

So as I sit back and wonder the “why’s” behind their decision, I’m compelled to think about the “why’s” of our own KIVU Gap Year.

Why is a Gap Year Important

For many, a Gap Year seems like an expensive way to go out and “find yourself.”  After all, millions of students each year appear to seemlessly to engage in University life, and they all find their way, right?


Nothing could be further from the truth.

Curent stats show that only 59% of incoming Freshman will actually reach the finish line attaining their degree from University.  Which means over 40% are wasting money to onramp life.

Current Gap Year statistics says that Gap Students are graduating on average at 3.75 years, instead of the governments 6 year allotment for government money.  So intuitively, the Gap Year actually provides an economical way for students heading to University to make the most of their time.

I know, on the front end it seems expensive, and as an industry, we have a lot of work to do to make it more affordable and scalable for all people.  But the phone calls I get now are the 21-25 year old students who have no idea how to engage in the world.

They’re working minimum wage jobs, wondering when they’ll have a chance to lead, dreaming of the promises the University made for them to engage the marketplace.

They call and ask, “When is it my turn?”  And to be honest, it’s pretty difficult to re-align expectations after they’ve been promised from the first soccer game at the YMCA that they’re winners.

According to the reports from the Washington DC Ap Beureau, the advantages of a Gap Year are obvious…

Students who took a gap year typically say they entered college feeling more recharged and focused, while universities say those students often arrive on campus as better leaders — more civically engaged and motivated.

Anecdotally, “students come away much more mature and take their studies more seriously, and they are more assured of what they want to do major wise,” said Jeffrey Selingo, author of the book, “There Is Life After College.”

More important, Selingo said, they know what they don’t want to do.

As the President of a Gap Year, I would like to propose some of our own findings.  .

An Intentional Gap Year Helps Students with Self Awareness

Probably the biggest advantage we are seeing with our KIVU Gap Year graduates is their ability to understand their place in the world.  Most students grow up in an environment where the values and social norms are reality.  Many students have no clue how to engage with other cultures, other religions, other socio-economic backgrounds; in fact, students are just like you and me.  We most likely migrate to communities who think like us, believe like us, look like us, talk like us…etc.

With the growing trend for students to move to the city, (gentrification) the rules of that community will probably be challenged at every level.  They’ll live around people who see the world in a totally different way.

The Gap Year concept, gives students the ability to hone those skills.  Whether they are dealing with a neighbor in the apartment building, learning how to talk with a boss, or engaging with different clients; the best thing for a new University student to learn is how to navigate all the differences while finding their own place in the world.

A Gap Year Provides an Awakening

The KIVU students have just finished their 9 month program, and are in the middle of downloading.  We have a re-entry week each year to help students shape the narrative of what they’ve just accomplished.

Many of my conversations this week are proving this “Great Awakening” in the souls of students.  They know what they don’t want to do.  They are actively drifting into the places they want to spend time learning about.  And they’re now passionate to pursue those vehicles of learning to place them where they want to spend the first part of their working lives.

A Gap Year Exposes Our Culture’s Obsession 

We have an obsession to move our kids through a process of education.  Pre-K to Kindergarten.  Kindergarten through sixth grade.  Sixth grade through Junior High.  High School to College.  College to Master’s degree.  And the wheel goes on and on and on.   Somewhere we adopted this obsession, and anyone who breaks from the norm is somehow not going to achieve all we think they can achieve.  But in reality, when we take a step away from the machine, we see successful adults aren’t necessarily the one’s who kept the status quo.

Successful Students know who they are, not just what they do.
Successful Students can facilitate information to bring ideas together, not just regurgitate information for a test.
Successful Students know how to learn, not just what to learn.
Successful Students are invigorated by the idea of accomplishing BIG IDEAS.
Successful Students  have the ability to imagine, dream, and execute ideas.

I believe this trend of Gap Year will continue to grow.  Some will be able to find their passion immediately.  Some will go on to name brand Universities.  Some will be able to navigate our world’s toughest problems.  But most of all, helping students actually come ALIVE when they learn will actually facilitate global leaders.

Thank you Mr. President for recognizing the benefits of sending your daughter on a Gap Year.  The culture of Gap Year is just beginning.  And I promise…we’re just on the verge of making this experience an opportunity for as many people who are interested as possible.


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