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Posted on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

Gap year fair: Ann Arbor students' interest in taking a year off draws special event

By Danielle Arndt

Ann Arbor's acceptance and encouragement of gap years has resulted in the city's first national gap year fair coming to Pioneer High School Thursday.


Ephy Love prepares a falafel dish at a Yemeni restaurant in Israel. Love took a gap year in Israel after graduating from Dexter High School in 2009.

Photo courtesy of Ephy Love

Taking a "gap year" off between high school and college has become a growing trend in the U.S. And here in Ann Arbor, it is a trend that more and more students are embracing.

It was this openness to the gap year concept that attracted the attention of USA Gap Year Fairs, a national organization that gathers together reputable gap year program providers, interested students and parents, high school and college counselors and other gap year experts to explore the full realm of post-secondary possibilities, John Boshoven said.

Boshoven is a counselor at Ann Arbor's Community High School and the coordinator for all counselors at Ann Arbor Public Schools. He is a big believer in the gap year and even convinced school administrators to offer a semester-long class called "Preparing for the Gap Year" at Community High in fall 2011.

USA Gap Year Fairs contacted him, and on Thursday, the organization will be bringing one of its national gap year fair events to Ann Arbor's Pioneer High School, 601 W. Stadium, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. These fairs take place across the country, in cities such as Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

Over the past five years, USA Gap Year Fairs has grown from seven events to about 30 events nationally, its website says.

"It's basically like a traveling show," Boshoven said. "They go from city to city. … The various gap year programs sponsor the fair, and (USA Gap Year) brings the circus together and brings them around to interested communities."

Boshoven said the event will be set up in true "fair style," with about 30 gap year programs and organizations in attendance, each with an information table in the Pioneer cafeteria.

Any traditional district, charter academy or private school student in Washtenaw County is welcome to attend.

"It's similar to a college fair where students can wander around, pick up information and ask questions about admissions, who is eligible and how do I get more information," Boshoven said. "They spend only as much time as they can, or want and wish at each table."

There will be information for students on a variety of gap-year options, from completing non-profit work in large cities to traveling overseas for religious or cultural experiences to opportunities for researching or conducting service projects for local governments, Boshoven said.

Many gap year programs through an organization cost money. They can range from a couple thousand dollars to $30,000 or more for a travel or cultural experience or to participate in a job-readiness program.

But Boshoven said taking a gap year also could include working at a restaurant or in retail or another field for a year to save money for college or to test out a future career path. A gap year simply is a period of time between graduating from high school and starting college in which a student steps outside of the traditional classroom setting for personal growth, according to the USA Gap Year Fairs website.

Boshoven said he doesn't know what to expect of Thursday's event, considering this is the first time the gap year fair has come to Ann Arbor, but he hopes 100 to 200 students will attend.

Prior to the fair, at 6 p.m., Boshoven will host a panel discussion on gap years in the Pioneer cafeteria. He has recruited three to five former Ann Arbor students who have done a gap year to speak about their experiences and to answer questions. One of the panelists has been working this year to save money and two of the other confirmed students traveled to Israel through a Jewish youth gap year program.

"Some students need time between high school and college for a variety of reasons," Boshoven said. "Maybe it's to slow down and get their wits about them, to raise money for that expensive next step or to explore a driving compulsion or compassion to do something — like explore their faith more fully or explore geography. … When you get old, you have to make a living and can't always take a year off. It's an opportunity for students to scratch an itch of something that's really been captivating them. … College should be something you don't have to rush into. It'll be there when you get back."

But Boshoven added it is his recommendation that students still apply to colleges as high school seniors and use the counselors and other resources of their local high schools to help them get accepted. Students then can defer their enrollment for a year to "keep that foot in the door and have that college holding a space for them," he said.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:42 a.m.

I totally agree with this. If you want to explore your options there are places out there that will give you co operative experience. Mine wants to try the Camp Store counselor program they have. It trains them to be camp counselors. I don't think you have to become a camp counselor but if you think about it, you are getting some valuable experience otherwise. Mine isn't sure what to do after hi school. But Pioneer does offer job possibilities outside of college. I know a few who will never go to college and yet can still make good money at it. I wish them luck. I hate to say it, but some parents just cannot afford college and I for one do not want to straddle my child with unimaginable debt that college brings with it.

Blue Eyes

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

Bad move. Many students are ineligible to stay on their parents' insurance if they're not full-time students.

Jeff Gaynor

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

"The Affordable Care Act requires plans and issuers that offer coverage to children on their parents' plan to make the coverage available until the adult child reaches the age of 26. The issued regulations state that young adults are eligible for this coverage regardless of any, or a combination of any, of the following factors: financial dependency, residency with parent, student status, employment and marital status."


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

This is a wonderful resource for students who may want to explore alternatives to immediately starting college, especially for those who are not ready financially of for other reasons. However, students considering doing a 'gap year' (we just called it taking a year off!) need to be careful too. The new-found independence gained by having a 'real' job & paycheck, sharing an apartment with friends, or being able to travel can be very enticing, but it can also make it very difficult to go back to school as a college freshman later.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

I agree with the first part and disagree with the second. Travel first and then go to college. Enjoy life and then decide.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

When did 'gap years' come into fashion? Serious question. I graduated from High School in 1994 and had never heard of that. Maybe expectations were a little different 'way back then'.

Ben Freed

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

I took a gap year and it was a phenomenal experience. It actually made me more motivated to do well when I got back to college because I was really excited to get back into a classroom after a break. By contrast, many of my classmates were still sick of school after high school and saw freshman year as a time to party.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

I think a gap year is a great idea for a lot of students. It's a chance to consider the direction in which you'd like to take your college studies before you even begin, as well as a chance to get some of that partying out of your system and gain a little maturity and wisdom before you have to worry about it showing up in your GPA. That said, it doesn't have to be a big affair with international travel and specially planned programs, just find a little throwaway job to pay the bills (bonus if it's related to something you might like to study or ultimately pursue as a career), a cheap apartment or a spare room at your parents' place and just try to relax and enjoy life, see where it leads you.