Students create a gap year program: First Year Experience chapter for gap-year students organized

Posted by Mariel Kennedy

Skidmore's First Year Experience aims to aid a student transition from high school to college living by implementing first-year, peer mentors, pre-orientation programs and a plethora of other resources.

Special programs and events also exist for incoming students of color, international students and transfer students. Soon, students who deferred a year will also be able to have a program in the FYE dedicated specifically to their needs.

The idea for a deferred-students program came from Anna Graves '14 and Josh Speers '14, both of whom deferred a year before coming to Skidmore.

"The idea is out there with other colleges, and there are even schools that are encouraging students to take a year off … We are getting this idea from our own experiences in wishing we had a program like this as first-years," Graves said.

Graves said she spent her year in a number of productive ways, ranging from working on an organic farm to working with nonprofits and environmental internships to even sneaking into classes at the prestigious Brown University. She ended her gap year by moving from Rhode Island to California to be a climbing instructor in the Sierra-Nevada's.

Speers, who could not be reached for contact by press time on Thursday, spent his gap year working with the Governor of Massachusetts before moving to Denver, CO, and playing music, according to Graves.

Graves said she and Speers both wanted to meet more students, like themselves, who had chosen to defer. "We wanted to create a network to meet each other and learn about all the different experiences," Graves said. "The transition from a year off is hard, because students are coming from a world that doesn't feel or look like college at all."

Graves also stressed the importance of this network because most students who defer are older than their peers, which Graves says can make a difference in connecting with other first-year students.

The main goal of the program, according to Graves, is to give students a bigger outlet to meet and connect with different people.

The program is being set up with the coordinators of the FYE program, who Graves describes as "extremely supportive … and really willing to help." The program will start with a deferred students dinner during first year orientation week. It will continue throughout the first semester with slightly less formal meetings. In addition, there will be "peer friends," who Graves describes as upperclassmen who deferred a year and who will be available to students throughout the semester. However, Graves said the relationship with a "peer friend" is "not to be a formal relationship like there is with a peer mentor."

Graves and Speers are working with similar programs at other schools — Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill and Harvard — to establish and expand Skidmore's program. Though no students attended the informational meeting on March 29, Graves said, "The interest has been extremely high in all the deferred students that have heard about it. Almost everyone has been excited about the prospect of meeting other deferred students."

Matt Gaydar '14, who took a gap year before enrolling, says the program sounds interesting, but lacking in purpose. Gaydar spent his year , which he says was denfinitely beneficial to him, participating in three different programs, leading him to travel around the U.S. and to South America, Africa and Spain. While traveling, Gaydar learned many things from outdoor skills with Outward Bound to African drumming and dance.

"I think that having a program like this would be interesting, although I personally do not see the point … I actually felt more motivated and ready for college after the gap year. I do not really see the need to separate gap year students anymore," Gaydar said.

Still, Grave, Speers and their potential members are enthused and excited about the upcoming program and encourage students who deferred a year to contact them and join the network that they call "awesome to be a part of."

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