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In a constantly evolving world where the traditional pathways of education and career are constantly being changed, the concept of a gap year has emerged as a transformative and amazing experience for young adults. Especially for those with ADHD and learning disabilities, this period can offer opportunities for growth, learning, and self-discovery. SOAR’s Gap Year and Gap Semester programs stand out as great examples of how adventure-based experiences can significantly benefit individuals in this confusing and fun phase of life.

What is a GAP Year?

A gateway adventure program or GAP can provide young adults with the opportunity to learn and explore their future in new ways. While most high schoolers attend college following graduation, some may look for a break following their schooling. According to The GAP Year Association a GAP Year can be defined as, “An intentional period of time devoted to personal growth and exploration through experiential learning opportunities.”

This being said, a GAP Year can take many shapes and forms and does not follow a one size fits all model.

A GAP Year can include:

A self-guided period of travel
A work-exchange program
A structured GAP Year with a clear schedule and timeline
A volunteer program
An internship for college credit or experience

Why take a GAP Year?

A GAP year offers a respite from pressures of academic life, providing time to explore individual interests, develop life skills, and gain clarity about future goals. Institutions like Harvard University, MIT, and Yale endorse GAP years for the maturity, self-confidence, and perspective students bring back to their academic pursuits. For those with ADHD and learning disabilities, the benefits are even more noticeable. The real-world experiences Gappers come across can help foster personal and academic growth.

According to the GYA, other benefits of a GAP Year or Semester include:

An increased sense of maturity amongst participants.
An improved sense of self-confidence.
A competitive edge when enrolling in colleges or applying for jobs.
An opportunity to interact with others from diverse backgrounds.

What is the difference between a GAP Year vs a Semester?

Both GAP options allow for graduates to explore different paths on their own time. While some may opt for a longer time away from academics or a career, others may only like to spend a semester exploring. Truly the only difference between the two is the amount of time spent in the program, whether it be four or eight months.

Reasons to Take a GAP Year

Deeper Immersion and Impact
A full year allows for a deeper and more meaningful immersion into whatever activities you choose to pursue. Whether it’s traveling, volunteering, or working, a year gives you enough time to fully engage with the experience, understand the culture, build lasting relationships, and make a more significant impact. A years worth of real-world experience can allow for greater life skill development and an opportunity to create ones own community away from home.

Comprehensive Personal and Professional Development
A year provides ample time to undertake multiple activities, enabling you to gain a broader range of experiences and skills. For example, you could spend part of the year volunteering, another part interning, and still have time to travel or pursue personal projects — attending a program like SOAR allows for all three! This diverse experience can be more enriching and provide a more well-rounded perspective, which can be beneficial for personal growth and enhancing your resume.

Better Planning and Transition
Taking a full year off allows for better planning and a smoother transition back to academic or professional life. You have the time to thoughtfully plan your GAP year activities, set goals, and ensure that you get the most out of the experience. Additionally, you can use the latter part of your GAP year to prepare for re-entry into your academic or career path, making the transition less stressful and more strategic.

Reasons to Take a GAP Semester

Shorter Time Commitment

A GAP semester requires a shorter time commitment, which can be less daunting for students who are unsure about taking a longer break from their studies. It allows you to take a break and explore new opportunities without significantly delaying your academic progress. This can be particularly appealing if you have concerns about extending your education timeline or if you have commitments that prevent a full year off.

Some colleges will only allow students to defer for one semester so a this is an opportunity for them to experience GAP without interfering with their next steps. Or maybe you have another GAP semester already planned and your chosen program starts in the spring instead of the fall!

Cost-Effective Option

A GAP semester can be more cost-effective than a full year, as it involves fewer living expenses and potentially lower program or travel costs. If financial constraints are a concern, a semester off can still provide valuable experiences and personal growth opportunities without the higher costs associated with a longer gap period.

Easier Reintegration into Academic Life

A shorter break can make it easier to reintegrate into academic life. A semester away from studies might be enough to recharge and gain new perspectives without the risk of losing academic momentum or feeling disconnected from your educational path. This can be particularly important if you’re in a program with a structured curriculum or if you want to maintain a closer connection with your peers and professors. At SOAR our semester option allows for students to build foundational skills while traveling out West!

SOAR’s GAP Programs:

SOAR’s GAP Year and GAP Semester programs are specifically for 18-24-year-olds with ADHD and learning disabilities, offering a blend of travel, college classes, and volunteering. Participants embark on a journey of self-reliance and discovery, navigating real-life challenges and adventures across the Eastern and Western USA, and even internationally.

The program’s emphasis on outdoor adventures and communal living helps participants discover their talents, increase their self-reliance, and experience life-changing adventures. From rock climbing to exploring surrounding National Parks, participants are put into environments that challenge them physically and mentally, fostering growth and resilience. 

Participants also learn vital life skills—cooking, laundry, space organization, and trip planning—preparing them for independent living in a supportive, communal environment. They also take ownership of their experience, deciding on destinations and planning activities, which instills a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Whether it’s rappelling, kayaking, or wilderness skills, each activity is chosen to build confidence, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities. The international trip in the spring also adds a global perspective, enriching the GAP experience with cultural diversity. 

A GAP Year or GAP Semester at SOAR is not merely a break from academics; it’s a journey towards self-discovery, independence, and readiness for life’s next steps. For those standing at the crossroads of education and career, SOAR’s GAP Year and Semester programs help give you an alternative path filled with growth, adventure, and friendship.