Can You Combine College AND a Gap Year?
The gap year has become a hot topic among college admissions advisors this spring. But what if you could choose a college and a gap year experience during this admissions cycle or the next?
Verto Education offers this opportunity to 500 freshmen. Those chosen for this experience spend their first semester or their first year abroad. They earn college credits for the gap year experience. Then, after they finish they transfer into one of Verto’s partner schools. Over the long term Verto would like to have “the largest freshman class in the world,” where students roll their gap year into their college education.
This idea piqued my interest. So I contacted Ben Welbourn, one of Verto’s co-founders. While I cannot endorse schools as well as vendors, I want them to tell their story. Ben is open and honest as to who will be a good fit. Some will love the idea of hands-on, small-group experiences versus a traditional freshman year of college. Others will believe that this “isn’t college.” Read on, and listen to Ben, then decide for yourself.
You must find a fit with a partner school.
Verto partners with 45 public and private colleges and universities to offer this best of both opportunity to college-bound students. Partner schools vary in size and selectivity. The more selective schools include Bucknell (PA), Case Western (OH), Grinnell(IA) and William and Mary (VA).
Admittedly, there are schools that I do not know as well. But residents of Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont will be happy to know that their flagship state schools are partners. Pennsylvanians may be happy to know that Temple University has signed on. Those who might qualify for a merit scholarship from any of these schools will definitely be happy. Verto is also helping its students. They will offer $5,000 International Leadership Awards as well as Opportunity Grants between $7,000 and $10,000 for families financially impacted by coronavirus.
Among Verto’s current partner schools I have visited:
- Bucknell University
- Clark University (MA)
- Chatham University (PA)
- College of Wooster (OH)
- James Madison University (VA)
- Merrimack College (MA)
- Muhlenberg College (PA)
- St. Michael’s College (VT)
- Temple University
- The Catholic University of America (DC)
- University of Vermont
Bucknell is quite selective, although the university recently went test optional, and has had to go to its wait list. The rest of these schools offer achievable admissions as well as unique strengths. One, James Madison, a public university, ranks 14th among New Jersey residents who choose to attend college out of state. Temple currently ranks 6th. I’ve found five of these schools to be quite fair when it comes to financial aid: Bucknell, Chatham, Clark, College of Wooster, Muhlenberg and St. Michael’s. Temple had planned to step up its merit aid programs before COVID 19. The College of Wooster (pictured here) is unique in that all students, regardless of GPA, must do mentored research with a professor.
Here’s a very brief introduction to the gap year/college application
Using a single application, prospective students may apply to Verto and up to five partner schools, for no fee. They will receive a decision within two weeks after all materials are submitted and after completing an interview with a member of Verto’s admissions team. The company expects to have more than 70 partners who will accept applications in the fall.
Verto’s approach to college and gap year admissions is intriguing. The company has the right team in place to make the experience work. This includes instructional designers who blend technology into the hands-on courses. However, the gap year to college transition can only go smoothly when a student is serious about transferring into the partner school after s/he is finished.
My suggestion is to research Verto’s programs and the schools before you start the application. Take virtual and in-person visits to campus, and get your questions answered. The College of Wooster, as one example, takes demonstrated interest quite seriously. Make sure that the schools that you like will be as interested in you as you are in them. You will enrolled at that school later than your classmates. The gap year will help prepare you for the academics when you go on to a more traditional college schedule. But you want to be sure that you will succeed academically, have a future direction, and a network for life.
Verto might not be a partner with every school on your list. Ideally it should be a partner with more than one. Those who are interested in a liberal arts college have some interesting choices; those would like to attend a larger school would probably prefer more. It’s also quite possible that your gap year experience might lead you to change your mind. Holly Bull, a gap year guru, learned that she did not want to be a marine biologist after her first gap year. Talk further with Verto. Find out what may happen if your interests change.