"V'haya ki tavo el ha'aretz..." Ohr haChaim comments that "ain 'v'haya' elah lashon simcha." The biggest simcha is coming into Eretz Yisrael. It doesn't matter who won the election or how many seats any party has -- sometimes we forget the bigger picture, namely, we have a country where we can hold elections and govern ourselves for the first time in 2000 years. For 2000 years we have been waiting for simcha like this.
What is it about the experience of learning in yeshiva/seminary in Eretz Yisrael that transforms students who may have been disinterested in high school into students who are excited and inspired?
Rather than offer my own theories, I thought a better idea would be to bounce the question off my daughter who is now learning in Eretz Yisrael and get her reaction. So what makes seminary different? Here was her short, off the cuff answer after about 2 weeks into her program:
"They [the teachers] are a lot more involved and people can ask any question they want and they wont be like "oh we cant talk about that now. They actually start discussions and try to answer your questions.
They also have a lot more personality and try harder to relate to us..."
I could write a whole peirush Rashi on just those comments, but I'll let them speak for themselves and just add one thing. If you ask your typical high school morah what she is trying to teach, the answer I think would be something along the lines of X number of perakim, or the Rambans on this or that perek, or some sefer in Nach, etc. The curriculum boils down to a list of facts to be absorbed and spit back.
I would argue that even in the best case scenario, a student can learn a bunch of those facts really well and sadly, still know very little about Judaism. Facts and information don't really inspire and are often not really relevant to the challenges of every day life in an obvious way. They have to be woven into a framework that is meaningful, that provokes, that inspires, that gives direction and that encourages a student to go stretch their thinking. That is what the gap year does for a lot of kids, and that's why it makes such a powerful impact.