A gap year is a period of time between completing high school and beginning college when a student steps outside the traditional classroom experience to embrace opportunities for experiential learning.
This is a time to explore the world, reflect on their personal values and goals, and prepare to take the next purposeful step in life. Gap year programs give students a developmental advantage over their peers by providing them with an opportunity to expand their perspective and gain direction that give the college years meaning and focus. For many students, Gap year programs provide them with time to develop independence and confidence while pursuing various fields of interest.
Almost all gap year programs have a focus on education, service and personal growth. The education students receive is based on learning outside the classroom, engaging the world they live in, and broadening their perspective. During a gap year, almost all students participate in some form of community service. Typical efforts include working with an orphanage, teaching English in a foreign country, working with endangered species, providing meals for the homeless, or some other form of necessary service. All students undergo personal growth while on a gap year program by developing independence, sharpening their focus, and learning practical life skills. The advantages gap years bring are an invaluable component in the development of any young adult.
The popularity of taking gap time is growing at an exponential rate in the United States. It is publicly promoted at some of the most well known universities including Harvard, Princeton, Tufts, and New York University. Some of these universities even openly encourage students to take a gap year in their acceptance letters. In 2009, Princeton University took the lead by creating their Bridge Year program which provides need-blind financial aid for a portion of incoming freshman to take a gap year.
“Normally a total of about fifty to seventy students defer (Harvard) college until the next year. The results have been uniformly positive. Harvard’s overall graduation rate of 98% is among the highest in the nation, perhaps in part because so many students take time off.”
William Fitzsimmons (Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard University)