What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a period of time when students take a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, intern, or work. A gap year is also referred to as a deferred year, year out, year off, time out, time off. A gap year experience can last for several weeks, a semester, or up to a year or more. Typically a gap year is taken between high school graduation and starting college, during college, or between college and starting graduate school or a career.

Watch this video taken at the 2009 Denver Gap Year Fair:

The gap year concept has its origins in the UK, and since the 1990's taking time out has become a right of passage for tens of thousands of UK students. The gap year is becoming increasingly popular with US students. One reason is that parents are more open to the idea today than in the past. Studies have been conducted by leading universities like Harvard that conclusively show that students who take a year out before college are more focused and motivated when they arrive on campus than those who don't take this detour. Harvard's admissions department is so convinced of the benefits of a gap year that they offer the option to every admitted freshman in their acceptance letter.

Taking time out between high school and college used to evoke fear that the student would not follow through with college. Today, the college admissions offices at both private and state run colleges and universities are getting more requests from students to defer enrollment, and are freely granting these requests provided the student can demonstrate they have specific goals and will better prepare them to succeed in college. This trend is great news for both colleges,students and parents. Given the fact that the dropout rate amongst US college freshman is nearly 30 percent (according to the National Center for Education Statistics), the gap year option is fast becoming a viable alternative for many students.