#13 The Many Advantages of a Gap Year Transcript



And I actually worked with a number of Harvard, different students. One year they did their gap year. Then I followed up with them after they’d done a year at Harvard. And what was interesting is they said they just landed. They weren’t intimidated. They were very relaxed. They took advantage of what Harvard had to offer, but it wasn’t running them.


And that’s, what’s so great about this because you really get solid in that. You just lead from that and the things around you, you don’t worry so much about fitting in and all of the stuff people fuss about. And we all fuss about in our lives. Most people call them gap years, but Holly bull has a better name, gap time.


She’s placed over 3,500 individuals, including her own daughters and interim. Holly is one of the original students of the center for interim programs, which her father started in 1980, her own gap year between high school and college was split into two experiences across the globe from one another.


When she got up close to Marine biology, while in Hawaii, she also became clear that her interest in Marine biology would not be enough to make it the right career for her. In this episode, Holly bull we’ll reframe what gap time can be. And you’ll understand that studies show that those who pursue a gap year are more successful in college and are graduating faster than their peers, which often leaves their parents saving thousands.


I’m Lisa, Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to college and career clarity, a flourish coaching product. Let’s dive right into a great conversation.


I am so excited to welcome Holly bull to the podcast. This episode, she is going to shed amazing light on an actually expand our thinking on gap years. I’m excited to introduce her. I think she’ll do a better job introducing herself as she fills us in. On her center for interim programs and the work that she does there as president Holly.


Welcome. Thank you, Lisa. And thanks again for being interested in this option and supporting this option for students. I’m obviously biased here because I’ve been pretty much steeped in the gap year, process and world, actually, most of my life. So my, my company, the center for interim programs, there’s like a big clearing house of options and we are the first and longest.


Independent gap your counseling organization in the U S. So we started in 1980 when nobody was really talking gap year in the U S it was pretty much full swing in the UK, but very much at its beginning stages here. And my father started this company after being a teacher and a headmaster for many years, always saw a need for something like this, and he was collecting options, you know?


And just kind of tossed them into a little shoe box for about 20 years and then started interim here in Princeton in 1980. So here, here in Princeton, New Jersey, since that time, you know, we’ve worked with over 8,000 people, mostly students, but actually we work with all these. But primarily students who can take the time more easily when he started the company, I was graduating from high school.


So I took a gap year myself before college, and I took a gap year after my sophomore year. And then I’ve been counseling people now for over 30 years. And again, all I do is gap your counseling. So that’s what I’m bringing to the table. Just from my experience of working with so many students, probably over 3,500 for me specifically.


From my own gap year experience, the first one was really, probably most useful because the break between high school and college, I think is the most natural one. And for me to go off and check out Marine biology, potential career was actually incredibly useful because after about a couple of months of scrubbing out trim tanks and chatting with scientists on a walk who I was working at an aquaculture research center, getting a good sense of the daily do of the work.


I thought, you know, I probably don’t have the patience for this. Um, not something I’m going to major in, in school or do his work in the world. Good to know, tick that one off. It resonates with me the most because as a college major and career coach, I am always talking about curating those experiences, which could be anything from an informational interview to a job shadow.


When I actually became aware of you, it was through hearing you on somebody else’s podcast. And the first thing that grabbed me was using gap year experiences, not just to take a year off, which we really want to talk about. I want to hear all the great things that people can do, but. Getting up close and personal so that they can make wise informed decisions around that college major and the career.


So I loved that your own story included that piece at what we all think of as the traditional time, but not all gap years have to be that year between high school and college. No. I mean, you can take a break from college and it can be less than a year. It really shouldn’t be called gap. I think it’s just whatever period of time that you feel like you want to step back and explore or step forward and explore different areas of interest.


And I do think, I mean, I’m very practical in my approach, working with people I don’t force or push people toward options. But if someone says, oh, I’m interested in maybe doing an internship, I’m going to nudge really hard because I think it’s so incredibly useful because the reality with so many students, and this is what I see as a counselor and certainly from my own experience.


My gap year, like high school to gap year, because I remember going from math class to history, to Spanish, like how does this stuff connect? You know, how’s it relevant to the world and the classroom doesn’t give you that information. And so these students are going from high school into college, which is not that different from high school.


They’re still going from class to class. They’re trying to figure out where their passions are through more classes, which is not easy. And that’s why people end up four or five years moving through college because they’re changing majors, they’re changing schools, which starts to get really pricey and time consuming.


When you could take a very focused gap year and go and systematically pick off all your interests for as many as you can, one by one, through these different experiences, just like sticking your toe in the water of these different fields. And literally in my case, Marine bio. Okay. Not that for, you know, one of my students went off and did fashion marketing years ago in London and she came back and she said, wow, it really is like the devil wears product.


These people are really difficult, you know, do I want to deal with them? That’s what you want to know is what is it like in this field? Because I think people have no clue, you know, that they have maybe a romantic notion of something or they’ve heard about a particular career and they think, okay, maybe I’ll go do.


My own. Step-daughter took a gap year before college and she’s now 28 and working for IBM and Samantha did language classes. She did a yoga instructor training course, but then the last three months of a gap year, she did an internship in Dublin working for a little startup company that was promoting Irish designers, you know, That’s in bags and jewelry and so forth.


And they kind of rotated her through all the different aspects of this business. And she came away saying, wow, look really like business. You know, not sure I want to work with artists because it was hard to organize them. She’s really organized. And I said, all of that’s really useful for you to know. At 19 in an apartment and fellow entrance, you have to cook for yourself, head out the door of your day to her job placement, navigate the city more independently, a half step into the work world before college, before the work world.


So what she found was not only was that transition into college, easier for us. She just like hit the ground running and moved on things. Freshman year. She wasn’t typical. But she said, I’m pretty sure I got my job at IBM. Based on that internship I did at 19 and double it, she said, that’s all we talked about during the interview.


And they told her Samantha, you pretty much got this job. No, she was a good student. She was at a good college, but employers, you know, as you well know, Lisa are not necessarily that impressed by your GPA and where you go to college. I mean, they want to know, can you show up and do the work? Are you proactive?


And how you show up in an interview is different when you take a gap year, because the sense of self and self-confidence that you see in these students, because they’ve handled themselves away from home in the world and they know they can handle themselves. And that’s really evident almost as soon as you shake hands with them.


Now, Samantha didn’t know that we could see it in her, but she couldn’t see it. But it was pretty clear, you know, it just after that full year of just doing all these different things and you don’t always have to do a practical internship to get a lot of those, those in the world skills that are going to be really useful in the work world.


I think that’s, that’s pretty key. The other thing said. She said, you know, I had a fellow student from my college also working at IBM and she said she actually didn’t do that. Well, initially she said she was a little entitled. She wasn’t proactive. So she wasn’t successful, even though she was a really good student because the student skills don’t necessarily translate into the work.


Well, last night I just gave her presentation at star Dale high school, and there was a woman who was listening. She said, I worked for IBM. And she said they would always have the, like the higher ups and be asking the perspective higher EAs, who among you has language fluency, you know, like what other skills are you going to bring to the table?


And, you know, it’s really hard to get language fluency sitting in a classroom in the U S you need to go to the culture and speak with people and bring the language. Right. Right. So many great benefits. It’s amazing. So you say gap time. I love that term because I think we think too much into a gap year that it has to be a full year with your group.


What’s the shortest amount of time someone could do a gap time? Well, I mean the shortest type of program, I mean, when I say program it’s covers a wide range of options, it should be called options. So it could be as short as a two day. A week long wilderness survival skills course like month by month art studio, art classes, you could go in and do the skill.


Skill-based intensives can be one to four weeks to up to a full year. So you have such an array of options. And typically the people are taking a regular gap year between high school and college. They could fit in at least two main things. So like summer, I worked patrol the airfare during my year. You know, I, some skin in the game here and I did the internship in the fall, came home, actually applied to college halfway through my gap year.


And then I went to Greece on a, on an academic cultural study program. So it was one program. One program that was a splurge more for my parents. And with two older brothers in college, it was a really reasonable year for them. It gave them a breather and it gave me a lot of really good experience. And I definitely was more excited about learning for its own sake when I hit college.


So I got more out of college because of that year. And I have a daughter who’s on a gap year right now. Where is she? I promise I didn’t force her to take out them. She wasn’t actually sure, because she’s a little older, so it’s like, I don’t want to be too old landing in college, which is a really common concern that she did indeed take new year.


Last year. Obviously we’ve all gone through this really hard process with COVID and the pandemic and watching her through school and just pretty much being depleted by my last. And I said, I don’t almost care what you do. I just want you to go and rest and get healthy again. And fill back up in the summer is not enough time often to do that.


So she didn’t detect that yet. She’s did outdoor adventure program in the fall with peers, not near her phone that much outside just loved it. I mean, it was physically really rigorous, but she was so much healthier when I, you know, like halfway through, I could hear it’s like, oh, I’ve got my daughter.


Sense of humor is coming. She’s rested. She’s not so run by the outside because for me, the core of this work is that you’re just pushing away all these aunts and sheds that come at us directives from the time we’re little and put in school, I’m expected to go to college. I have to do this. I have to do that.


You know, what will people think? And in gap time, ideally, you’re just leading from this core, like pivot, whoever that is. But that’s what you’re trying to figure out. And so you’re choosing an owning what you’re up to and that’s personal power. You know, if you can learn what it feels like to choose and create your life at 17, 18, 19, you’re you’re so far ahead of most older adults who are still doing the arts living from the outside in, and what I’m hearing with Leah is just, she’s not as run by the.


Pressures she’s much more solid in who she is. She’s been doing an internship right now for a human rights lawyer in South Africa. And the difference she said with writing a paper at school, it’s like, I have to get a grade for this compared to doing research for this lawyer. Who’s right now, actually presenting in Rwanda on the ethical use of AI.


And Leah had, did all, did all the research or a lot of the research for those slides, things like, okay, we can’t use the term human rights and certainly not genocide. So let’s figure out all the ethics material we can find. And so she was researching all these papers from Princeton and other places.


She’s like, this is really interesting and it has direct in the world, you know, relevance. So when she hits college, she’s got that sense of in the world that she’s bringing into the college class. And then into the work world beyond, and she’s got a good recommendation letter. And again, like everything you do on a gap year goes on a resume.


You’re getting to your, you have this range of experience and skills you’re front-loading skills before you hit college that you’re bringing to the work table as well. I love as I hear you with your own girls and then yourself, we have to have self-awareness before we can make these major choices.


Right. That’s one of the things that we do, I teach a three pillar framework. So know yourself, deeply know careers, you know, research on, but get up close and personal, and then you can know your path, right? That those first two parts absolutely have to be accomplished to be able to know your path. And what I hear you sharing coming out of your own family’s experiences is they develop self-aware.


Yep. They tapped into some super powers that it sounds like your girls didn’t even really realize maybe that they had, or they grew into those. They S they started to see in themselves what you, as parents already saw in them. And so, as they gain that self awareness, they’re just going to make more informed and better choices as a step onto the campus.


And then go ahead and step into the world of work. You know, I was thinking about with Samantha with IBM. Part of what sets that apart is it right now is people don’t know what you know, we’re recording this April 1st and this is all the colleges. Right. And I was listening to Rick Clark from Georgia tech, just talking about how it’s it isn’t fair.


And it is so subjective that you, you can be successful. Probably at that campus, but maybe you didn’t align with their mission and knowing yourself to know what colleges, where are you aligned with your mission. So, while I love that we’re talking about it this time of year, I also know that this is good food for thought for everyone, and that students should start thinking about it earlier and not rule it out once they’re in college.


Right. Right. And the whole idea of choice, because in this nutty culture that we live in, people typically are expected to go to college. And if you don’t, you feel like, okay, I’m a dropout and no, that’s not a great choice unless you have a really clear career path and gap year can help with that. I had a young man who had no interest in.


He said, I want to learn about recording arts. He did a month long course, basically got certification that we set him up with. Then he did an internship in Philadelphia at a recording studio. They hired him on after he did the internship and it was like a straight shot to work. But for the students who are doing all the academics, I just think that what you said, and I just love that you’re separating into those, those, what do you call them?


The pillars, first one, which is the one people most often forget is leave from the core interests, whatever they are. And it can be something totally random, but you, you might as well go check it out because you’re going to learn from everything. And in that process, The information to make the informed decision about what comes next, what kind of environment do I like being around?


What kind of people, what kind of weather suits me? You know, people don’t think consciously about creating their life. They’re, they’re sort of in the soup of what they’ve been cooked in mixing my metaphors, and then they’re going along with that soup mentality. And when you do gap time, you’re stepping out of the soup.


So you’re looking at, what’s cooked you up until now. And from that vantage point and say, okay, what really serves me? Because you can actually distinguish yourself from what you’ve come from. It’s sort of like Armstrong on the moon. You know, you look back at earth, that’s physical, separating back and looking back at what you’ve come from.


I think it’s. And it’s in a sense, you’re doing that with gap time with these different placements that can be out of the country or just out of your familiar environment and that’s yeah, there’s just so many benefits. I mean, the only reason I’ve ever heard anybody not to do gap time is if they’re not interested, you know, you have to want to do this.


Right. And it shouldn’t be. Right, but I love to one of the things that you were sharing there, this is what I teach inside the course. Is it so essential to get up close and personal with these experiences, these jobs that you’re thinking about because what you study for a college major while you might need that groundwork, that knowledge, it doesn’t always correlate with the day-to-day of a job.


By curating the experience as we start to be able to see where that disconnect is. And then I’ve also found that when kids are in college and they, they know actually that it does fit. So they’re like, okay, the career fits, right. I’m going to need this major, or I can pursue these different majors. Right.


Then when they get to a class that maybe is hiccup for them, it’s a little more challenging. They’re less likely to do. Oh, gosh, I got to switch my major because this class, this course is not working for me. It’s a lot of hard work because they actually know that, you know what, completing that class is checking a box, right.


To get me to the degree that I need to get to the career that I know it fits because. I know myself. I know how it aligns. I know, I know what the day-to-day of that job is going to be, not just what that college majors about. Right. And that, that is that whole idea that you, you know, when students just go to college because it’s next step, they don’t have that carrot out in front of them.


It’s like, this is what I’m going towards. And so the steps back, as you’re saying to get, there are much more, much more clear for. The other thing is interesting, and this is not a guarantee, but I have a couple of students this year who did not get into the colleges they wanted to get into. One girl said I got into one college.


Wait-listed everywhere else. She’s not just going to reapply. And she just told me she had, she just got into UVA where she’d been on a wait list before another girl just wrote me. She said, I got into Cornell, the reapplication. Process the colleges can see your full senior year. So you want to keep grades level up.


Don’t let them tank up, ideally, and then you can speak from part of your gap time and talk about what you’re planning to do because most colleges know on every level. This is the research that finally higher ed is doing that on every level. You’re a better student for them. You out, you’re probably gonna have a higher GPA.


You’re going to have the leadership skills. You’re not going to have the, like the roommate issues and drama, like the stuff that derails people freshman year, it just, it’s not a big deal for gappers because you’ve already gone through that. They’ve already stepped out into the world. They’re not coming out of high school.


And so why wouldn’t you want that kind of a student on your campus? And like I said, guarantee of admission and it will help. It will never hurt. What are some colleges off the top of your head that they are very gap year friendly, like, cause I know there’s some that they don’t, they’re not only friendly to it, but they encourage students to go ahead and take, take those gap years.


I’m Harvard for years. Second paragraph in their initials letter. I think it’s still there is, Hey, now that you’ve gotten it. If you thought about taking a gap year, it’s like, go make mistakes, go rest. We’ll come back to us. We know you can do. But we’d love it. If you just take a break and come back and then we get all the benefit of this sort of just a more overall healthier human being, I would say.


And I actually worked with a number of Harvard, different students. One year, they did their gap year. Then I followed up with them after they’d done a year at Harvard. And what was interesting is they said they just landed. They weren’t intimidated. They were very relaxed. They took advantage of what Harvard had to offer, but it wasn’t running them.


And that’s, what’s so great about this. Cause you may get solid in that core. You just leading from that and the things around you, you don’t worry so much about fitting in and all of this stuff people fuss about, you know what I mean? We all sort of. Colorado college has become a research hub for gap year and mark hatch and admissions there.


I was on a gap year panel. Wasn’t that for a big NACA conference. And he was saying, these students have higher GPA’s young men who take gap time or outperforming non-gap your female peers, which is then they’re way out performing. Non-gap your. So just maturity and the focus, all that makes a big difference in young men.


And you said these students are leaders on campus. He said they finished college in four years or fewer. He said, we’d like to see 20% of our incoming freshman class have taken a gap year. And he said, which was really unusual at the time. He said, if you’re applied to Colorado colleges in your favor, if you tell us you’ve done a gap year or you’re planning to do one, it will help you with.


You said on every level. So, I mean, that’s unusual because most colleges, you just want to apply, get in, ask her a deferral, and then usually you can get a different, some of these state universities. I think UC schools don’t give the referral. And I think wake forest is another, so there’s some colleges that dominant one this year.


If it was ed, they weren’t letting people defer, but most colleges. Really are really supportive Stanford, Tufts, UNC chapel hill, Florida state university. I mean, pretty much across the board. You’ll find that the colleges are paying attention to the research that’s coming. ’cause, they don’t actually want students to be there five or six years.


They really would rather people move through pretty efficiently. Parents don’t want to parents, or, and you’ll, you’ll spend a fraction of that on, I mean, look at the savings. If your child does one extra semester of tuition, it gets expensive. So like, why not take some money and explore as widely as possible and get all those skills that are going to help you move into the work world and be more efficient.


Tap your students to finish college in four years or fewer. That’s the research. That’s an ROI right there. I mean, just from the purely financial investment on a parent’s part of educating their child, right. Where that’s a concern like, okay, you’re going to actually end up saving money if you pay for some gap time and it doesn’t have to be expensive, you don’t have to bleed financially to have a great.


You could do a whole year of nothing but options that give you housing and food in exchange for labor. So it could be, Hey, I’m going to go do trail work in national parks with a group of fellow volunteers in social life, or I’m going to go do disaster relief work and help rebuild homes, schools, and small businesses post hurricane disaster or fire damage or tornadoes or earthquake us or abroad, or maybe I want to go and help teach or coach in classrooms.


Or, you know, work with kids in the outdoors, like an outdoor ed center, all of these are really low cost and you’re still getting the, in the world skills. It may not be like a formal business internship you’re doing, but you’re getting some really good independent living skills. I mean, I had a young woman who landed in Greece to go do sea turtle conservation work.


And she said the taxi driver turned out, dropped her off about a half a mile from this. She said, here I am on the island and I don’t speak Greek and I’m tired. I have all my bags. She said, I just sat down by the side of the road and bawled for half an hour. And then she said, I figured I should get up and keep walking. She said that was one of the best experiences during my gap year. She said, lawyers in any airport in the world can get around those softer skills. Yes. Yes. There’s so much talk about executive functioning skills. You know, all this stuff, years ago, I was having a sort of hysterical conversation with a college counselor at a high school in DC.


And she said, you know, we have parents coming in saying, the colleges want passion. We need a coach to teach passion.


You really have to get these young persons starting to pay attention to what lights. And nobody can do that for them. All you can do for them is offer them the options. And that’s what they need. The options drive the engine. Yes. I say all the time, parents you’re there to resource and cheerlead. So resource might be, Hey, we’ll pay for you to do this.


We support you in doing this, but they have to do it. Right. So let’s resource and cheerlead them through that. And that helps them to get on their path and get. You know, it’s interesting as we’re talking about this with this time of decisions coming out, some colleges are even moving to, Hey, we’ll let you in, but you got to do a spring semester start and kids get surprised by that.


Well, it sounds like gap time could be a fantastic way to spend that first semester. If you’re going to start in January instead of August or September. Yeah. And what’s interesting about that is Bob Claggett, who did the research for GPA research? I was referring to, he was in Harvard emissions for years, Dean of admission at Middlebury college for about seven years.


And so he was looking at the GPA differences with the gappers higher GPA, but he also said what I noticed with the February. So these were students who just had about three months off in the fall. They had to figure out what do I do with my fall. Disproportionate number of those students were walking away with all the leadership awards.


It’s like what’s happening in three months, but that’s making that kind of a change and I put it to you. It’s what I’ve been talking about. They had to suddenly step in more proactively as sexual summer. What do I create here and stepping into that, and then that proactive energy, just carrying with them right into college.


That’s amazing. Well, tell everybody, if they went to explore working with interim and how you help students, what’s the best way for people to connect with you and learn about their options. We always do and always have a free 90 minute brainstorming session. Part of our mission is just to educate people about the gap year.


So there’s no obligation to work with us. However, you’re going to come away with a lot of information. And in that conversation typically by zoom, these days, parents or parents and student are part of it. And we just started looking at the student’s basic interests that they send to us. And then we start to.


Here’s how this works. Here are the options. Here are the benefits. Here are the things you want to watch out for. Okay. Now let’s zero in on your specific interests and start matching you with these different ideas. And as they hear these things, you know, their mind is doing this right away and whatever sort of percolates up to the top, then we put that into a planning sheet.


Like here’s what. Pretty much follows the school calendar. Here’s how you can combine things, but nothing is set in stone, but that kind of clarity, I think really helps for students. Even if they decide, Hey Holly, you know, I’ve had people say, Holly, this sounds interesting. And I choose college this fall, but what you notice that they’re choosing, they’re not just going to college.


They’re really looking at these options. Do I want to do gap and then college? Or do I want to head to college? I choose and I own it. I own the decisions. In that process, you know, then if people want to sign up with us after that, we just charge a flat fee, good for a lifetime, whether they want us or not, it’s an open-ended service and we don’t get any money from programs, no referral fees.


So we are impartial as we were. I love that. So yeah, you’re not going to be steering them to something that fits your financial goals and


great. Well, we, in my show notes, I’ll be sure to link to it. People can contact you to learn more and thank you for educating and enlightening us. I love the work that you guys are doing. Yeah. You’re more than welcome. And I really appreciate your focus on this sort of practical path of getting clarity upfront.


If you can, in terms of how you then take on college and then how you get at a career beyond that, it’s a real missing piece in high school and in college. So. Thank you, take care Holly.


My conversation with Holly has reignited my wanderlust and has me wishing I could go back in time and pursue an interim. Holly’s work also has me really excited about the benefits of interim programs, because I’ve seen the same growth, clarity, and transformation as students in my launch career clarity course work their way through the three pillars of know yourself, know careers, ed.


My call to action for your family this week is to use the wealth of information on Holly site to brainstorm and plan curated experiences. Whether that’s a DIY adventure, a job shadow, engaging Holly’s team or something totally different. I’ve linked to her site in the show. And I want you to head over there because your going to find, she gives you eleven categories of interim experiences.


This will have you thinking about what’s possible for your family. Remember your goal is to get up close to experiences that will build greater self-awareness and help students make informed decisions about the future. While you’re doing that, my husband, Rob, and I will start planning our next vacation.


Instead of a gap year. So if today’s episode was helpful to you, please share with a friend who needs this. Sharing, following the podcast rating and reviewing helps us resource more students to launch into a successful future. Thank you for listening to the college and career clarity podcast, where I help your family move from overwhelmed and confused to motivated, clear and competent about your teen’s future .