Why Use a Gap Year Counselor?

If you are in high school, chances are you or someone you know is working with a college counselor to help them through the painstaking college application process. For students who need help deciding which schools to apply to or how to write a great essay or how to finance their college experience, this guidance is extremely beneficial. Did you know there is a similar service for gap year students?

Like professionals who specialize in college admissions, gap year cousnelors are experts in guiding students through the gap year planning process. This includes setting goals for gap time, recommending the right programs and helping students mentally and physically prepare for their year.

Not everyone needs a gap year counselor, but many gappers can benefit from the extra support. As a professional gap year counselor myself, I’ve assisted hundreds of students take gap time. It is an exhilarating process to watch a person plan, execute and return a changed person from their gap time. But it’s also logistically complex and a bit intimidating to get started. Choosing to work with a gap year counselor who has an extensive knowledge of the field of options can take you from someone who is lost in gap year planning to someone who begins their adventure confident and excited for what lies ahead.

Here are a few ways in which professional gap year counselors help students, based on feedback from former gappers themselves:

Less Stress

Planning a gap year during your senior year can be challenging, but working with a gap year counselor can put you and your parents at ease. Gapper Lara said, “I always felt better about the gap year after sessions with my counselor. She was really helpful in making me think about what I wanted from this year and flexible when I changed those ideas.” Feeling supported and guided by someone who isn’t a parent can decrease anxiety and empower you to make independent decisions about your gap time.

Choosing Programs

“I knew I wanted to take a gap year, but I didn’t really know where to start,” said recent gap year student Michael. “There were so many programs out there and I didn’t really know which ones would be a good fit for me!” A gap year counselor takes the guesswork out of the equation by getting to know you and helping match you with high-quality programs that fit your personality, goals and budget.

Planning & Parents

Organizing a gap year can be tough on parents – they want to give their child a great year but they also want it to be safe. These concerns combined with an existing family dynamic can create tension during gap year planning. Having a counselor involved as a neutral third party can help everyone compromise and see things from the other perspective. Margot said that during her planning, “I really valued how my counselor found a way to accommodate my desire for adventure and boundary-pushing with my parents’ concerns for safety.”

Mental Preparation

Organizing your itinerary is half the battle, but a good gap year counselor also helps you emotionally prepare for the experience. Meredith said her counselor, “helped me to feel more organized and prepared before I left for the first semester of my gap year.” This includes running through your itinerary before you leave, giving you resources to help you be a more effective program participant and offering ways to research the new location where you’ll be spending time.

Support from Beginning to End

Some students change their plans mid-way through their year or decide to add an additional component to their year. You can describe your new ideas with your counselor, who can help you shift gears quickly. For example, my student Marissa decided mid-way through her year that she wanted to backpack in South America for two months. I helped her organize her itinerary, which she presented to her parents as a powerpoint. Thanks to her successful travel earlier in the year and her organization, her parents allowed her to execute her plan!

Bottom Line

If you are feeling lost in planning your gap year, there are people who can help. Most counselors offer free exploratory conversations where you can ask questions and brainstorm. You can also visit a local USA Gap Year Fair this winter and meet counselors in person. Or visit the Gap Year Association counselor page for a listing of accredited and professional gap year counselors. Happy planning!

This post was written by Julia Rogers, of En Route Consulting, the very first GYA Accredited Gap Year counselor. She’s excellent at what she does and we heartily recommend her services. Julia has been a huge help to us at TAP as we’ve built our Grants for Gap Year Travel and our pre-departure framework.

Julia has also started a fantastic podcast about gap year, listen and be inspired!

This is a picture of Julia and Josh, one of her students, in Ireland, on Josh’s gap year.

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