Seniors Explore Post-St. Andrew's Opportunities At College Fairs
Director of College Counseling, Elizabeth Guice, was instumental in planning two recent events for rising seniors to help focus their post-St. Andrew's experiences. The NACAC College Fair, the Gap Year Fair, and the Hills of Austin College Fair. The first two of these fairs have just happened, and the Hills of Austin College Fair is on the calendar for the evening of September 23, 2014 (more details to follow in the fall). What do all three events have in common? She writes, "They are wonderful resources for our students as they think about what they want to do after high school. As a college preparatory school, the natural step for most of our students upon graduation is to attend college. And most of our students (and students elsewhere in the United States from schools like St. Andrew’s), go directly to college. But sometimes, students take a gap year and explore the globe or explore a profession or serve others in between high school graduation and college."
The NACAC College Fair provided Austin students with the opportunity to learn more about approximately 300 colleges and universities from around the world. The NACAC College Fair is a traditional college fair but also includes workshops about topics such as financial aid and college preparation for younger students. At a college fair, students collect information about colleges, talk to college admissions representatives about programs at certain colleges, and generally broaden their knowledge of colleges and universities. In the United States, the value of attending college fairs is fairly well-acknowledged. But the reasons to a Gap Year fair might be less clear. At the most recent Gap Year fair in Austin, we welcomed 25 gap year programs to St. Stephen’s.
The fair opened with a panel of experts on gap years – Bob Clagett: Director of College Counseling at St. Stephen’s who, in his previous admissions positions at Middlebury and Harvard, has done a great deal of research about gap years; Holly Bull, President of the Center for Interim Programs; a local student who is enjoying a gap year by working in Austin this year; and a former St. Andrew’s parent and educator at UT Austin who supported his daughter (a St. Andrew’s graduate) as she pursued a gap year between St. Andrew’s and college. Between the panel and the fair, students and families were not only exposed to interesting data about the benefits of a gap year but also introduced to ideas of what a gap year might look like. One of the most convincing arguments for a gap year is cited by Clagett, “For many of those students, stepping off the educational treadmill for six months or a year between high school and college can be an important way to remind themselves of what their education should really be about. It can also lead to a much more productive experience once they are enrolled in college, since those students will frequently be more mature, more focused, and more aware of what they want to do with their college education.” Whether students imagine that sort of growth taking place by studying art history abroad or exploring the outdoors with NOLS, the variety of programs is vast. Some programs focus on environmental sustainability, others focus on language immersion with service opportunities, and still others provide internship opportunities. Gap years are not for everyone, but neither is going directly to college after high school. Thankfully, educators in Austin recognize that individual students should have personalized processes as they leave home and continue to support programs such as these college and gap year fairs.