In recent years, taking a gap year has increased in popularity. This is when a student defers attending college and takes a year off after high school. Gap years have been far more common in Europe than in the US, but we’re seeing it become more popular.
Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, authors of Gap Year, American Style: Journeys Toward Learning, Serving, and Self-Discovery (2013) are big proponents of the gap year and the transformative powers it can have. In their research, they determined there are two many reasons students choose to take a year off:
- Burn Out – Students feel the need to take a break from formal education because they feel burned out.
- Self Discovery – They want to learn more about themselves.
Many students decide to take on different projects during their gap year. This includes teaching classes, helping build houses, interning, participating in scientific research, serving on ships, working with animals and so much more. There are many advantages to taking a gap year!
A fear of some parents is that their children will get distracted and never attend college. But, research has disproven this. Research has shown that not only do students return from their travels and go on to college but that they come back reinvigorated and better prepared to on college. Many students who took a gap year reported a greater appreciation for the opportunity to attend college.
Naomi Naidoo, a student who used her gap year to travel said it helped her build confidence. “It made me a lot more confident and independent, “ she told informED. “Prior to that year, I would feel pretty awkward or nervous doing things alone (even small things, for example going shopping alone), but in India, I did a lot of things alone, including traveling for 2 weeks.”
If you’re worried about what colleges thinking about your decision to delay your start of college, don’t be! Many schools are very supportive. Schools like MIT, Harvard, Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill, Yale and Middlebury are among the many schools that not only support but encourage taking some time off.
The Gap Year Association maintains a list of schools and their gap year policies. They also list scholarships available to students who take a gap year! Check out their website for great resources and more information.
Gap years aren’t for everyone, but they’re becoming much more common. Weigh the pros and cons to see if taking some time off is a good fit for you!