Check out this recent story in The New York Times, “Princeton Plans for an Early Year Abroad.” Princeton has become the first university to offer its newly admitted students a year of social service work in a foreign country before freshman year.
Princeton’s president, Shirley M. Tilghman (selected by Newsweek as one of America’s best leaders), explained the “bridge year” as “cleansing the palate of high school, giving [students] a year to regroup.” The program will begin with a small group and will eventually include 10 percent of admitted freshmen. It will be optional to participate and financial aid will be offered.
I think this is a great idea and a response to some important trends. Students today are globally aware and socially conscious. I’ve also noticed an increase in students taking a “gap year” between high school and college. I noted in my book that Goucher College in Maryland is the first college to require study abroad for a degree, and I think Princeton is taking a step in a similar direction.
My positive response to this program is personal, too. I spent two years between college and the “real world” in Australia and it changed my life. I think every young American should have the experience of living in another country.
What do you think?