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How to Talk to Your Family About a Gap Program

Written by

EF Gap Year

talking about an EF gap program
  • Publish Date:November 3rd, 2023

From the moment we’re born, our lives are planned out for us. We grow up on gold stars and time-outs. As we get older, we’re ushered into the world of school, extracurriculars, and test prep. Our grades and trophies become the talismans of our success. We’re told this is all necessary for preparing ourselves for The Future: the great unknown. And somewhere along the way, we’re expected to figure out where we’re going. Sometimes, the only way to figure it out is to step off of the path you know and outside of your comfort zone. It starts with the little things, like boarding a flight on your own or learning how to navigate a new city’s subway system. As you go on, these little things get bigger and bigger—until one day, you realize you’ve gained the courage to face life’s challenges, and the confidence to make your own choices, like choosing a gap program.

At the end of the day, choosing to take a gap program is about becoming your own person. And who could say no to that?

How to Talk to Your Family About a Gap Program: The Tips

Tip #1: Start with the WHY

Reflect on your own reasons for wanting to go on a gap year program. Why is it important to you to do this? Why now? Here are some talking points to get you started:

  • Big choices are coming down the road: what to major in; what career to pursue; where to live; what kind of lifestyle will make me happy. To figure out what I want in life, I need to see what’s out there first.

  • I’m not ready to go straight to college. I need time to figure out who I am and find what motivates me.

  • I want to travel and see the world before I start working, because I know I won’t get another chance in the future to do something like this. A gap program will help me do this.

Tip #2: Explain how a Gap Program will help your future

Ultimately, your parents just want what’s best for you. Help them feel better about taking the leap by proving how a gap year program is an investment in your future.

Below are some handy facts to have at the ready:

  • A recent study found that gap year students earned GPAs that were .1-.4 points higher than their peers— even when controlling for other factors.1

  • Gap year students were more likely to graduate in 4 years, compared to the national average of 6 years.1

  • 97% of gap program alumni report increased maturity and 96% report increased self-confidence.2

  • 60% of gap year program alumni say their gap year helped define their career path, and 77% said it helped them find their purpose in life.2

  • Studying abroad had a positive effect on 14 out of the 15 skills most valued by employers.3

  • At a recent gap year conference, 5 universities in attendance unanimously agreed that gap year students had a faster upward trajectory than their peers.4

1.      2012 study conducted at UNC Chapel Hill/Middlebury College

2.     2015 National Alumni Survey conducted by the Gap Year Association

3.     2017 study by the Institute of International Education

4.     2020 Gap Year Association Conference

Tip #3: Prepare responses to common questions about Gap Year programs

Q: What if you don’t return to college?

A: According to the Gap Year Association, in which EF Gap Year was recently accredited, 90% of students who go on a gap year program return to college within a year. See you on campus next year!

This is one of the top gap year misconceptions we hear from families. Check out this YouTube video we created to address the common myths about gap programs:

Q: Will you have a difficult transition back to school?

A: The whole point of taking a gap program is to make the transition to college easier. The experience will make me a better student because it’ll help me figure out my academic interests and rediscover my love for learning. It will also make me better adjusted to college life, because I’ll learn how to live away from home, make new friends, and manage my time better during my gap year.

Q: What will everyone think?

A: Gap year programs like ours are widely accepted now. Malia Obama took a gap before her freshman year at Harvard. In fact, the Harvard Admissions Committee has encouraged students to take a gap program for the past 30 years. In some European countries, it’s basically a rite of passage to take a gap year before entering university.

Besides—I’m not spending a year/semester doing nothing. I’ll be gaining real-life experiences and skills that will give me a leg up in school. Many people regret not taking a gap year. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Q: How do EF Gap Year programs work?

A: With Year, Semester, Short-Term, and Study Abroad programs focused on guided exploration and cultural immersion, EF Gap Year's innovative experiential learning model helps students discover their goals while equipping them with the confidence and skills to get there, all over the world. 

Q: Are you just going to have fun for a year?

A: I will be having fun, but more importantly, I’ll be learning and growing a lot on my gap program! EF’s programming is based on key experiential learning outcomes and designed to prepare us for success in college, adulthood, and beyond.

I’ll gain cross-cultural awareness, language fluency, and international internship experience. I’ll collaborate with community-based NGOs. I’ll participate in leadership development activities. Best of all, you’ll be shocked by how mature and independent I’ll be when I return home!

Check out this YouTube video that ’22-’23 EF Gap Year alum Carly F. made after reflecting on her experiences abroad and all that she learned during her gap year program:

Q: Is this company legitimate?

A: EF Education First is the world leader in international education and has been in operation for 50+ years. In that time, they’ve sent millions of students around the globe (literally). They have a presence in 100+ countries around the world.

Other fun facts: EF is the official language sponsor of the Olympics, affiliated with the Hult Prize, and a partner to the United Nations.

Q: How can you justify the cost?

A: College is expensive, and a gap program would help me make the most of the investment. If I start off with a better idea of what I want to study, I’ll be able to avoid changing majors and wasting time. If I’m feeling more motivated to learn, I’ll probably do better in my classes and graduate on time. Did you know that 60% of college students in the U.S. take over 6 years to graduate?

The program fees include all flights, transfers, and accommodations. They take care of all the programming/ logistics on the ground, including classes at an accredited language school. The fee also includes 24/7 support and mentorship from my dedicated Gap Advisor. EF Gap Year also offers scholarships and fundraising opportunities.

How to Talk to Your Family About a Gap Program: Additional Resources

What's next?

Congratulations! You took the first step towards making your dream gap year program or gap semester program a reality.

Here’s what to do next:

Get started by connecting with a Gap Consultant. Your expert EF Gap Year Consultant will walk you and your family through our programs to help you find the one that’s right for you. We’ll answer all of your questions and concerns.

EF Gap Year

Hi there! We're EF Gap Year. We believe that travel helps you become your best self. We love long trips abroad, living vicariously through our students' adventures, and writing punny Instagram captions.

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