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Taking Time Off from School: Interim Programs

Taking Time Off from School: Interim Programs

By Roxana Hadad

September 04, 2008

While most 18-year-olds were packing bags for college, Bathsheba Demuth was packing bags for the Yukon. “I had spent my entire life studying,” Demuth said. “I wanted to take a break and do something different.”

That “something different” was an interim program. Taking time off between high school and college, she lived with the Vuntut Gwitch’in people in Old Crow, Yukon, a town of 300. She learned how to fish salmon and hunt caribou, and trained sled dogs for a 200-mile race.

Students like Demuth are seeing the benefits of a little time off before they hit campus. If you’re in high school, you might like to know that your path to college doesn’t have to be a straight line.

The Benefits of Taking a Year Off

When you take a year off to participate in an interim program, you

  • get a chance to focus on your interests and decide what you want to do in college
  • develop your independence and the ability to work on your own
  • build your resume before you even get to college
  • create a network base of varied contacts
  • take a break from your formal education, so you can go back to school refreshed and ready to take on new challenges

  • Additionally, if you decide to spend your interim year abroad, you can gain fluency in a language and a better understanding of the world.

    A World of Programs

    Interim programs are as varied as the students who participate in them. “You can volunteer on a ranch in Montana doing political research, help in conservation restoration in New Zealand or work with an artist in Italy,” said Holly Bull, vice president of the Center for Interim Programs.

    You can also take as much time off as you want. “Though the average student has an interim experience of one year, you can take part in programs that last anywhere from a semester to two years,” Bull said.

    Going Back to College

    If you’re interested in an interim before college, you can apply for college during your senior year of high school and, once accepted, defer your enrollment until the following year. You can also apply during your interim.

    You’ll probably find that your time off won’t hurt your chances for college admissions. “Most colleges today are very supportive of students taking time off between high school and college, as long as you’re using the time productively,” Bull said.

    Fred Hargadon, the director of admissions at Princeton University, agrees, noting that an interim program can give students the wisdom, perspective and experience they need to take full advantage of college.

    Footing the Bill

    How much an interim experience costs depends on how you choose to spend your year off. Many interim programs offer room and board and sometimes a small stipend in exchange for work. Usually, transportation costs and miscellaneous expenses are your responsibility. If you use a consulting service to match you with an interim program, there may be an additional fee.

    Interim experiences are becoming more popular for students who want to learn outside of the classroom. Take a break from textbooks and exams and get the education of a lifetime.


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