Gap year fair: Ann Arbor students' interest in taking a year off draws special event
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.
Photo courtesy of Ephy Love
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.