Deferring matriculation has its rewardsThis time last year, Sarah Schewe '12 could have joined Dartmouth as a member of the Class of 2011. But she, along with 19 other members of the class, decided to defer for one year to focus on non-academic work. "I'm so grateful to have had a year to travel, work, explore and—more than anything—to begin to know what I don't know," said Schewe, who explored the Canadian Arctic in a canoe before traveling to Uganda and Tanzania to support the efforts of Minnesota International Health Volunteers (MIHV).
Sarah Schewe '12
Schewe wrote about her experiences in the Uganda media, and maintained an online journal. "Sometimes, when I'm walking along the little paths that weave past mud houses and through the fields of banana trees, I inhale Uganda and try to exhale gratitude," she wrote in one entry.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Maria Laskaris '84 says the College is supportive of students taking a "gap year," as long as they have some sort of plan and structure for the time. (Students are required to update Admissions halfway through their year.) "It's beneficial for many," said Laskaris. "They gain new perspectives, mature, and are better prepared to meet the challenges of their first year."
Nationally, about two percent of high school students choose to take gap years, and the numbers are increasing. At Dartmouth, 15 members of the Class of 2009 and 23 members of the Class of 2012 deferred matriculation.
Like Schewe, many students choose to spend their years living independently and learning about the world, often through some form of service. Among the incoming class, Ben Hughey '12 taught English to underprivileged middle school children in Guerrero, Mexico, while Julia Schneider '12 mentored young people in the Bronx, NY as a member of City Year Corps. Kyle Megrue '12 lived in homestays in Bolivia and Peru and later helped fight poverty through microfinance. "The experience goes far beyond words on a page," he wrote in his midyear update to Admissions.
Some students hone their athletic skills before competing at the Division I level, and others combine an avocation, such as skiing, with working to save money. Beau Trudel '10 worked at Home Depot, and volunteered at his hometown (Rochester, NH) elementary school and historical society. "It was great to reconnect with my community and spend some time reflecting on what I really wanted my college experience to be," he said.
Looking back on his own gap year, senior Andrew Zabel '09 said it gave him a dose of perspective and time for reflection. Now a Rockefeller Center Leadership Fellow and a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, he said, "I arrived at Dartmouth knowing what I wanted." Zabel's research focuses on the presence of women in Latin American parliaments. He hopes to become involved in public policy and environmental politics after graduating.
By STEVEN J. SMITH
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Last Updated: 8/20/08