#087 – Exploring the Why and How of the Gap Year Experience: An Interview with Jay Gosselin of Discover Year and Marie Shea, Gap Year Parent

In this episode we had a wonderful interview with Jay Gosselin, Founder and Director of Discover Year, a year long program that helps young adults build essential skills for their career and life. We explored why students might need or want a gap year experience and the benefits of taking that year between high school and college off from traditional school. We were also joined by Marie Shea, whose daughter Grace chose to spend the year after high school as a Discover Year student. Marie shared the parent perspective and helped us realize that although each student’s story is different, we are all on a journey together.

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More and more students are taking a gap year before (or even after) they start college. But it may not be an easy decision as you consider whether or not your student can benefit from taking this break. We were happy to talk with both a founder of a gap year program and the parent of a student who participated in a program to hear more about what parents and students might consider as they think about a gap experience.

Jay Gosselin founded Discover Year in Ottawa, Canada and has recently expanded the program to Boston, MA. The program isn’t limited to those two locations but includes some students from all over the world. He shared why he felt there was a need for this gap year experience and how the program works.

We are especially thankful to Marie (and her daughter, Grace) for sharing the personal story of why a gap year made sense for Grace and what her experiences of the year were like. Their story should help parents and students know they are not alone as they navigate these decisions.

Both Jay and Marie mentioned the Harkness Method. If you’re curious and would like to follow up, here is an article that may help.

What is the Harkness Discussion? . . . Why I’ve Embraced This Teaching Method and How It’s Worked for Me.

Our conversation about gap years was wide-ranging and covered why students may need this time, what it’s like to be on a “different path” than those around you, what students can gain from this experience, and what the parent experience may be like.

Jay shared the elements of his program, Discover Year, and how they help students build important skills and create meaningful experiences for their year. He also shared with us how this hybrid program works for both in-person and remote students.

We also discussed why some students may choose to take a gap year after a less successful (or even successful) year or two at college or even after they graduate. Clearly there are many different needs and paths.

One of the unique aspects of the Discover Year program is a parallel parent program. Jay shared his learning experience about the balance of working with parents and how the parent program helps parents learn about what their students are experiencing so they can have meaningful conversations. In addition to learning about the program, Marie shared how much she appreciated having other parents on the same path with whom she felt comfortable could sharing experiences.

As we most often do, we asked about any books that Jay or Marie would recommend for other parents. Here are some of their suggestions.

Range by David Epstein

Late Bloomers: The Hidden Strengths of Learning and Succeeding at Your Own Pace by Rich Karlgaard

Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann Hari

If you’d like to learn more about Discover Year or other gap year experiences, here are some resources that may be helpful.

Discover Year

Gap Year Association

We have an earlier podcast episode on gap year experiences if you’d like to listen to more.

#011 – Should Your Student Take a Gap Year Before College?

Don’t forget that you can listen to all of our previous podcast episodes here or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also go to followthepodcast.com/collegeparentcentral to add our podcast (it’s free!) so that you’ll receive each new episode as we release it.

Let us know what you’d like to hear about on future podcasts! Leave a comment below or email us at podcast@collegeparentcentral.com.

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Note: Some links in our post are for affiliate products. If you use our links, College Parent Central receives a small percentage of your purchase price. This does not change the cost to you.  We think it’s only fair to let you know that.


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