One of the characteristics of the Bridge Year Program that surprises many people is that there isn't any formal academic coursework (besides language training). It is a year away from learning in the classroom and instead is focused on its core value of experiential service learning. This is a really valuable thing to do, but some people have asked me if this year away from academics makes it hard to return to school in the fall as a first-year student.
My experience in Brazil, a former Bridge Year location, was just the opposite. Far from making it harder to adapt back to academic study, I was excited to get back into the classroom! The senior year grind of college applications had left me a little cynical about my studies, but a gap year totally dissipated that feeling. A year away from homework and tests, was spent focusing on the real world. It gave me context and meaning to the work I am doing at Princeton. On top of that, with less time and high school curricula restrictions, I was free to read about and research topics during my Bridge Year that I was naturally drawn towards — which gave a lot of clarity to my thought about course selection when I finally arrived on campus.
Bridge Year is definitely not a vacation — we worked hard and learned a lot. But we were learning about the world and about ourselves. These lessons proved to be incredibly helpful when I arrived on campus. Far from making it hard to return to the classroom, my gap year experience greatly improved the quality of my academic work and life in my first year at Princeton.