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What’s the rush?

Some high school students have a very clear passion and idea about what they want to study and where after school, others have no clue and many are somewhere in between. Some go straight to college from school, others need to take a GAP year. This is the term used to describe a year between finishing High School and starting college, typically spent exploring learning experiences, community service opportunities and travel. 

Over 20 years of working with 15-21 year olds has taught me that most students end up studying exactly what they should be studying at exactly the right college when they leave school. But some just aren’t ready to make a confident choice and need a bit longer to figure this out. 

That’s why a GAP Year might be the answer. 

Typically a GAP Year is an opportunity for a student to broaden their learning through a range of activities which may enhance their practical, intellectual and personal growth. It is most definitely not a year for when a student takes a year off. For many, a well planned and goal orientated year can be some of the most intense learning that a student can gain independently of their school at a key time in their personal growth. 

There are a number of reasons why a GAP Year maybe something to consider for internationally mobile students: 

Family Relocating

Sometimes families relocate between countries at the same time their child goes to college. For some families it is important that they relocate as a family so that everyone has a sense of home in the new family home. Or maybe there is just too much going on with an international family move that a family has not got the capacity to successfully support a healthy transition to college too. 

Sudden Departure

Some students have to suddenly leave a country location e.g a sudden evacuation or instant termination of a contract during their school life and may need to return to a former home to gain a proper closure. 

Language and Culture

Some may have loved learning a new language or culture in a previous home country that they want to return to continue that learning. 

Part Time Work

Sometimes our internationally mobile kids have not had the opportunity to have a paid part time job and need this invaluable life skill before going to college. Also, some may need work experience or an internship to demonstrate academic passion and commitment for a college application. 

Manage Stress

For many seniors the final year of school can be incredibly stressful so some decide to focus their energies on their academic studies and leave college applications and entrance test preparation for a GAP Year.


Logistically some families who want to visit colleges in advance of their child applying do not have the time to do so and need some extra time to do this. 

Balancing Pressure

Maybe during the holidays before their final year of school a child has no clue what they want to study or where and it can end up being a highly pressured holiday trying to figure it out! This level of pressure may not be good for a child when they need to carefully balance quality relaxation and family and friend time with some school work so they are refreshed and ready for their final year of school rather than exhausted, stressed and feeling the pressure from everyone around them.

Intergenerational Support

Many mobile kids may need the time to build stronger connections with grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, which will serve as invaluable intergenerational support in the future. 

College Applications

Many college applications require kids to demonstrate their academic passion, service and leadership skills and a GAP Year can give kids more time to develop these traits and may be more highly regarded in a college application because kids have developed them independently of school. 


For some college applications certain grades are required for entry. It can help some kids if they wait until they have their IB or A Levels results, for example to apply to college or they have the option to re sit an IB or A level subject, for example, in their GAP year, if they slightly miss the grades required. 

Navigating the Pandemic

Finally, some families feel they need a little more time navigating life with a global pandemic before they feel comfortable sending their kids overseas to college. 

Sometimes our kids, and us as parents, feel incredible pressure to follow the conventional route of going directly from school to college. Trust that if a conventional route to college is not the best fit for your child then clear communication with the person responsible for your child’s college applications at school and a carefully thought through alternative plan can help your child to find a path that may be better suited to helping them thrive at college. 

If you maybe haven’t considered the benefits of a Gap Year and want to know more, please feel free to reach out to me for guidance.

Thanks for stopping by!

I’m so glad you’re here!

My name is Natasha Winnard. I am an International Youth Empowerment Consultant with a big passion to empower young people around the world to reach their full potential.

There are many ways I can support and guide your globally mobile family.


  1. As ever, sound advice from Natasha, she helps me parent more confidently. Biggest learning point for me has been with a son who needs a GAP year, even though he is not a ‘mobile young person’ is that he needs to seek other opinions, not just mine. He needs time to simply grow up: he needs to make some young adult mistakes in a half step to his next stage of life. Natasha’s wise words give me confidence to encourage him to do this, and bite my tongue whilst doing so!!

  2. Hi Natasha, thanks so much for openly discussing the need for a GAP year. It is important to appreciate and acknowledge both mental health and our collective need for a variety of well-educated young people in all manner of careers.

    This years graduates have had to learn how to go to school online, manage pandemic stress, likely be locked down or have been on evacuation flights, as (you say) without closure and have managed to successfully graduate- an amazing feat! Students need time to center themselves to prepare not only to attend University but to make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. Several of the students at my school have taken gap years- some to travel, some to work, and the school community really embraced their decisions.

    One student at our school who very much understands himself and where he is in his life, decided to take his DP diploma to Tennessee to complete a welding certification. This young man had lived internationally his whole life, only visiting his home community on school breaks. His mother worried about his decision, wondering if he was “throwing away” his international education. She eventually realized that, as a highly intelligent and successful young man, he was likely to make more decisions about his education and career, that he was exploring himself a bit first, and ultimately trusted him and supported his decision.

    I loved this article called “Ethical College Admissions: A gap year for everyone?”,

    I know you were a college counselor, I’m interested in your thoughts on how that role and support might change!

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