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The Educational Benefits of the "Gap Year"

With the recent announcement that Malia Obama will be taking a gap year, the media has inundated our newsfeeds with the pros and cons of gap years. Countless articles talk about how beneficial gap years are to personal growth and correlations have been made about how students are more focused and oftentimes become leaders in campus student organizations. However, what hasn’t been discussed is how these gap years could also potentially translate into college credit.

There’s no question that those who pursue a structured gap year learn a great deal that can’t be replicated in the classroom. Many choose to volunteer in surroundings that force them to step outside their comfort zone. Adapting to one’s environment requires certain skillsets. For instance, students who choose to take a gap year volunteering in South America may have to learn a new language. While adjusting to the initial language barrier, they must also discover ways to connect without using verbal communication. The experience not only helps the student have a better understanding of how important effective communication is but it may potentially decrease the number of required courses the student must take when back on campus.

With CAEL’s portfolio assessment program, LearningCounts, students enroll in a portfolio development course where they learn to analyze their experiences. Students can then create one or multiple portfolios demonstrating how their experience matches the outcomes of a specific course required for their degree plan. Not only are students able to reflect on how enriching their gap year was, but they are able to start their college career with credit for the knowledge gained from their unique experience.


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