School partners with USA Gap Year Fairs to host virtual gap year information session


Jackson Mayer/Chronicle

Students attending the virtual gap year fair hosted by the school and USA Gap Year Fairs listen to Accredited Gap Year Consultant and co-founder of J2Guides Jason Sarouhan, who delivered a speech about potential activities for students to participate in during gap years. Credit: Jackson Mayer/Chronicle

Jackson Mayer

The National USA Gap Year Fair was co-hosted by the school and USA Gap Year Fairs on Feb. 12. The three-hour virtual event started with an opening Gap Year 101 webinar discussing gap years at large, followed by a series of meetings about individual programs that attendees could select to join.

In the webinar, Accredited Gap Year Consultant and co-founder of counseling service J2Guides Jason Sarouhan said gap years provide a means through which academically burnt-out students can reset before attending college.

“If you are feeling burnt out now and also by the end of senior year, what does it mean to show up at the start line of the gates of college? This is your peak experience, this is your peak event, this is what you’ve trained for in high school,” Sarouhan said. “But if your body is totally depleted, if you’re mentally depleted, if you’re emotionally depleted, what does that mean for what’s going to happen when you’re there? How are you going to respond and react to the stress of living on your own? And unfortunately, what we see is a lot of students go into that college environment feeling that way and then they’ll burn out in the fall, or they’ll burn out in the early winter, and then maybe they’ll have to end up deciding to take a step away from college.”

Sarouhan said the brainstorming process is vital with regards to determining what one’s gap year experience might look like and entail.

“The initial brainstorming about what you might want to do with your gap year is gold,” Sarouhan said. “This is the chance for you without limitations, without thinking about budget, without thinking about where your parents are comfortable that you can go, without thinking about whether you have the experience or the confidence or the competence to be able to do the thing, we just want you to write it down.”

Director of Kutler Center and Summer School Programs Jim Patterson, who helped to organize the event, said many students perceive gap years solely as a time for rest; however, in reality, gap years can serve as an opportunity to experience real personal growth.

“While some mistakenly think of a gap year as a year off, it really is a year on,” Patterson said. “It is an opportunity for students to dive deeply into an area of interest, to explore and to try something new. The best gap years are full of exciting adventure, of development and of fun. Students who are prepared for this type of experience end up learning so much about themselves and the world.”

Interdisciplinary Studies and Independent Research Teacher Rob Levin, who took a gap year himself, said gap years can be particularly beneficial to private school students.

“Among the highlights of gap years that USA Gap Year Fairs provides is the perspective that their experiences afford of the USA, California and LA independent school bubble in which one’s lived, the ability to truly observe it for the first time,” Levin said.