What is a Gap Year?
"An experiential semester or year "on," typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness."
Some of the most common gap year plans fit the following profile, with an emphasis on experiential education and challenging comfort zones / sacrifice. Intentional gap years benefit students in some profound ways: Providing clarity and purpose, the student will have a better grasp on what they want to study; Improving earning and business potential with a global background that is tested in the real world; and Improving academic outcomes such as GPA, time-to-graduation, and leadership.
90% of students go on to enroll in a four-year institution within one-year of completing their gap year. Studies have shown that taking a gap year not only are tied to increases in college GPAs, but more significantly is tied to improved job satisfaction [2015 National Alumni Survey]. In short, taking the time to figure out what success looks like is a sure fire way to be directed in achieving it.
The History of the Gap Year
Since the 1980's many articles have been written about gap years, but perhaps most notably is the article primarily attributed to Harvard's former Dean of Admissions, William Fitzsimmons entitled "Time Out or Burn Out for The Next Generation." Since then, numerous books and articles have been written, most famously: "The Gap Year Advantage" by Rae Nelson and Karl Haigler.
While the Gap Year Association is dedicated to increasing the number of gap year students, we understand that gap years may not be right for every student in every situation, and thus stand behind the most cardinal of advising principles in gap years: the student must be the driver, and thus take the ownership for their experiences ... good and challenging. As Holly Bull from Interim Program has said, this is perhaps the most important ingredient in a successful gap year.
Prospective gap year students should both recognize the inherent challenges and benefits of a successful gap year, not only for themselves but also for their communities and parent(s). Taking a gap year is an opportunity for the student to take more ownership of their life rather than following the "Cradle to College to Cubicle to Cemetery Cycle" [http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com]. The essence of taking a Gap Year has anecdotally been a blessing for both the student and their community in terms of creating some real-world circumstances where the parent literally can't "come to the rescue," and where the student is "set up for success" in navigating some of their own challenges. Please read more in the Data & Gap Year Benefits page to understand some of the more specific benefits about taking a gap year.
In the United States, while little official data has been kept on gap year, a recent survey of 300,000 first-time freshmen at four-year colleges and universities found 1.2% waited (or 'deferred') a year to enter college, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. The number, while not very large, has been on a steady increase as gap years grow in popularity. Currently, there are some very compelling reasons to take a gap year, and in the research of Karl Haigler [http://online.wsj.com], he found that the two most common reasons for taking a Gap Year were:
- Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school, and,
- The desire to know more about themselves.