Colleges Fund Incoming Undergraduates' Gap Years

Monday, April 27th, 2014, 12:41pm, Topics: gap year, term abroad, year abroad, students loans, financial aid, need-based aid

When most people think about study abroad programs, they tend to regard these experiences as invaluable components of some undergraduates' college careers. That being said, a share of schools throughout the country may now be laying the groundwork for individuals to head overseas before they enroll in a single university course. These so-called "gap years" are not an entirely new trend; Tufts University, along with other notable institutions, has recently kicked off a program that enables accepted students to participate in a year abroad and that mitigates hefty costs with financial aid.

Financial Hurdles Put Kibosh on Past Students' Gap Years

Taking time off between high school and college so that young adults can discover the world and find themselves has been a long-standing tradition throughout European nations. In recent years, this trend has made its way across the pond, as U.S. students find such a proposition highly appealing. However, not everyone can afford to travel for an entire year right before having to handle the expenses associated with earning a bachelor's degree. In light of this issue, a select number of colleges have decided to open up this opportunity to all of their incoming undergraduates, establishing programs and allocating funds to cover the costs that students would incur. 

Schools See Benefits of All-Expenses-Paid Programs

Paige Sutherland with The Associated Press reported that the Tufts venture plans to enable its students to challenge their perceptions of self and the world by navigating through a distinctly new culture. To foster this development, the university intends to ease the financial burden of a gap year, paying for everything from housing to air travel. Tufts would ultimately be saving their students tens of thousands of dollars, which could prove to be a smart investment, as undergraduates would start their actual college career in better financial circumstances. 

"A lot of kids are very burnt out after high school," Lydia Collins, a freshman at Tufts who took a year to work in microfinance in Ecuador before starting university, told The Associated Press. "Taking this time to be with yourself and see yourself in a new community and light will only help you to succeed in college."

Princeton University joins Tufts in this effort to educate undergraduates before they even set foot inside the classroom. This institution's program offers incoming students need-based assistance to fund their gap years abroad, allowing them to travel to exotic destinations, such as India and Senegal.