Gap Year Programs: The Private School Post-Graduate Year

Why a fifth year of high school might be right for you

Did you know that not all high school graduates go straight to college? Instead, some students opt to take a gap year. There are many gap year options, including traveling, volunteering, working, interning and pursuing a passion for art. But that's not all. Some students actually use their gap year to further their educational studies in preparation for college. That's right, another year of school. While there are many educational gap year programs available to students, one of them includes enrolling at a private school as a post-graduate student, otherwise known as a PG. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that more than 1,400 students enroll in PG programs at boarding schools every year. 

Many private schools offer this specialized gap year program -- the post-graduate or PG year -- which is a year-long academic curriculum designed for students who have already graduated from high school and hold a high school diploma. Traditionally, PG programs have been targeted to male students, however, the number of female students enrolling as post-graduates has been on the rise. The reasons for students of either gender to attend a private school today are often the same. Despite the fact that these students have already earned a high school diploma, there are several reasons why many still choose to enroll at private schools, especially boarding schools, before heading to college, which include:

  • Improving maturity
  • Improving skills related to study, organization and time management
  • Improving academic abilities
  • Improving language mastery
  • Improving the chances of getting recruited to play sports at college
  • Improving an art portfolio for college or specialized art school 
  • Improving the chances of getting accepted at a top college
  • Preparing for life away from home for the first time

What else do you need to know about PG programs at private school? Let's delve into the basics of the program and why a PG program might be right for you.

Academic Boost

Students who need an academic boost in order to get into their college of choice can benefit from a PG year at one of the best private schools in the country. This includes students who were not accepted into their colleges of choice, students who need to add a few more credits to their transcript, and even some of the strongest student scholars who are looking to get accepted into more competitive colleges. 

Some schools have a specialized academic curriculum for PG students, while others allow PG students the freedom to pick and chose from all their course offerings. This means that at some private schools, PG students may be allowed to take specific classes or focus on a specific topic of study in order to be a more competitive applicant at college. Internships are sometimes part of the PG program, allowing students the chance to get real-world experience before they head off to college and choose a major. 

Athletic Opportunities

Didn't get the college offers you were hoping for? Need another year to improve your skills, strength, and agility? A PG year might be right for you. Not only will you get to work with some of the top high school coaches out there and train in state-of-the-art facilities, but you'll also have more visibility. Many top boarding schools have strong connections with college coaches and recruiters, and the notoriety of these programs alone can help you get noticed by schools that might never otherwise even hear of you. Taking the opportunity to train for one more year could be exactly what you need to take your athletic career to the next level.

Learn a New Language

A PG year can also benefit includes students learning a new language. Some of the best boarding schools in the US offer programs for English Language Learners, or ELL/ESL students, who are looking to improve their mastery of the English language in order to study at American universities. Similarly, American students looking to study in a foreign country for college can benefit from PG programs at international schools in order to further their grasp of another language. Granted, PG programs are more often found in the United States, but there are indeed international schools that offer them.

Prepare for Life at College

Many PG students at boarding schools find that spending the year away from home helps them better adjust to life at college by getting a preview experience. The boarding school environment is like a preview of college life, but with more structure and guidance. This helps students adjust to dorm life, improving their organizational skills and time management, and helping them develop a strong balance of school, activities, sports, and social life. 

Spending a gap year at private school in a PG program can help students better prepare themselves for college, and that includes students looking to play sports in college. Those who are interested in NCAA Division I college programs on athletic scholarships may greatly benefit from a PG year. This extra year of study and play can help student athletes improve their grades in order to qualify for scholarships, as well as give them time to get stronger, faster, and more skilled. Private schools offer college counselors and top coaches who will help you get noticed by college recruiters. It's common for private schools to host showcases and camps where college coaches can catch a glimpse of your talent. 

Other students may benefit from art programs during a postgraduate year at private schools. With many schools offering robust arts programs, including visual arts, digital arts, music, drama/theater and dance concentrations, students have the ability to hone their creative crafts. Some schools offer assistance developing a competitive college portfolio and provide opportunities for students to exhibit their work in art galleries on campus and in the community. 

If attending a postgraduate program sounds like it might be right for you, check out these schools that offer PG programs. You can also find a full list of boarding schools in the US and abroad that offer PG programs here.

Avon Old Farms
via www.sphereschools.org
  • Located in Avon, Connecticut
  • Founded in 1927
  • Grades 9-12 and PG
  • Single Sex School: All Boys

Avon Old Farms enrolls 15-20 PG students annually, and these students are considered members of the senior class. The Academic Dean works to create schedules for each PG in order to best enhance his academic profile. Acceptance into the PG program is limited, and due to the high level of competition, accepted students have high expectations placed on them.

They are expected to participate in leadership roles in the classroom, on athletic fields, and in the dorms. They work closely with the College Counseling office throughout the year; some may even begin their work with the office in the summer prior to school starting.  More »

via Bridgton Academy
  • Located in North Bridgton, Maine
  • Founded in 1808
  • Grades: Postgraduate
  • Single Sex School: All Boys

Bridgton Academy is a unique school with a mission to provide a program designed only for postgraduate students, preparing young men for the rigors of college and beyond. The school offers a strong academic program, including their College Articulation Program (CAP) and College Counseling, as well as a Humanities Program and a STEM program.  More »

cheshire-academy
Cheshire Academy
  • Located in Cheshire, Connecticut 
  • Founded in 1794
  • Grades 9-12 & PG
  • Coeducational

PG students at Cheshire Academy range from talented athletes who need another year of exposure to artists and students who need extra time to improve their transcripts. The Academy believes that coursework for PG students should be meaningful and advanced work that furthers the student's academy profile. The coursework meets the requirements for Division I sports programs and college academic entrance. It includes the PG seminar, which is a specialized program of study required for all PG students, including SAT prep, college application assistance, public speaking, finance, economics, and more. The Art Major program at the Academy is ideal for creative students looking to attend some of the top art schools in the country.   More »

Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, MA
Deerfield Academy. ImageMuseum/SmugMug
  • Located in Deerfield, Massachusetts
  • Founded in 
  • Grades 9-12 and PG
  • Coeducational

Deerfield accepts about 25 post-graduate students annually. Those students are considered part of the senior class (about 195 students), and are eligible to participate in all school programs. PGs are considered a vital part of the Deerfield community, as the school acknowledges that they strengthen school spirit, provide strong leadership and often serve as mentors to other Deerfield students. More »

Fork Union Military Academy
https://rig409.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/fork-union.jpg
  • Located in Fork Union, Virginia
  • Founded in 1898
  • Grades 7-12 and PG
  • Single Sex School: All Boys

Fork Union Military Academy has earned a national reputation in athletics, annually sending up to 60 athletes from their high school and postgraduate teams to NCAA Division I college programs on athletic scholarships. They are one of the top schools in the country for aspiring athletes, especially for football and basketball. These teams compete separately from the underclassmen and have produced athletes with an incredible resume of success, including a dozen NFL first-round draft picks. They aren't limited to football and basketball success, either. Fork Union Military Academy also produces top athletes in track, swimming and diving, lacrosse, wrestling, golf, and soccer.  More »

Interlochen
Interlochen.org
  • Located in Interlochen, Michigan
  • Founded in 1962
  • Grades 9-12 & PG
  • Coeducational

The postgraduate year at Interlochen is intended for students who aim to focus on greater artistic preparation before entering college, conservatory, university or art school.

PG students are required to enroll in at least one academic class of each semester, while the rest of their course selections may be classes which relate to their majors. They may also take courses in other art disciplines or additional academic classes in order to enhance their high school transcripts. Upon completion of the year-long program, students will receive a certificate of attendance from the Arts Academy. More »

Northfield Mount Hermon
http://arcusa.com/
  • Located in Mount Hermon, Massachusetts
  • Founded in 1879 
  • Grades 9-12 & PG
  • Coeducational

NMH's PG program is thoughtfully designed and is supported by a dedicated advisor and class academic dean who help students meet their goals. College counseling for PG students begins on the very first day they arrive on campus, with meetings between the counselors and families.  More »

Phillips Academy
Phillips Andover Academy. Daderot/Wikimedia Commons
  • Located in Andover, Massachusetts
  • Founded in 1778
  • Grades 9-12 & PG
  • Coeducational

PG students at Andover are excellent students in search of an extra, transitional year before heading off to a highly-selective college or university. Qualified applicants will be fully engaged, honors level students taking challenging courses. There is a tremendous emphasis put on academic growth and a positive academic trend over time. The admission committee looks carefully for this growth and is interested only in students who are academically motivated and seeking a challenging year. More »

Wilbraham & Monson Academy
  • Located in Wilbraham, Massachusetts
  • Founded in 1804
  • Grades 6-12 & PG

PGs at WMA are part of a diverse and rigorous college prep environment where each student can seek individual attention from committed faculty. They participate in competitive Athletics and Activities programs to further develop and hone talents and skills that students can carry into their college careers. The College Counseling office works with PG students to help select and apply to colleges and universities that best suit each student’s individual talents, interests, and goals. More »