Most college-bound high school seniors go on to college the summer after graduation. But taking a gap year before or during college has become an increasingly popular option for young adults. Students use their gap year for a variety of pursuits, including working, traveling and volunteering both at home and overseas.
The Associated Press reports that between 30,000 and 40,000 students take a gap year. However, the Gap Year Association (GYA), a nonprofit organization that coordinates the the gap year movement, states that there are no exact figures as to the number of students who do. They do note, however, that the number of gap year students is growing annually.
Gap year as a time to reflect before college
According to a 2015 GYA survey of more than 550 gap year students, 77 percent took time off between high school and college, and took an average of four years from starting college to graduation day. More than 90 percent of respondents percent reported that the year off from school allowed them time for self-reflection, personal development and increased their maturity and self-confidence. A new GYA survey is in the works and will be released later this year.
College admission experts note that there are true benefits to students who take a gap year. David Hawkins, Director of Public Policy and Research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, notes “the gap year could help students succeed in college by bringing focus, maturity and motivation to college.”
To gap or not to gap
The decision whether a student should consider a gap year depends on a number of variables, including the student’s academic, economic, and social/emotional readiness and willingness to take time off. They should also consider the following as to when to file their college applications:
- students who are satisfied with their high school performance could apply to college during senior year. Once they receive their acceptances they may be able to defer enrollment for a year.
- students who are dissatisfied with their high school performance could use the gap year to improve their standardized test scores, gain work experience and apply/reapply to colleges during their gap year.
Gap year resources
If students are considering taking a gap year, they should do their homework, beginning with contacting a school or private college counselor. Here are some places to start:
- For gap year fairs, go here.
- To learn about working abroad, consider AFS International.
- To volunteer domestically, consider City Year.
- To work in the great outdoors, look at National Outdoor Leadership School.
- For an international learning and immersion experience go to the The Experiment in International Living.
Please note that the above resources and programs are only a sampling of options. Families should carefully evaluate whether a specific program is a good choice for their student.