Don’t Mind the Gap

We had already put down a deposit for my son’s college of choice when he came bounding down the stairs on a cold March day with an announcement. “I’m not going to school next year; I’ve decided, so don’t try to change my mind.” Changing his mind was the last thing I’d do. In fact, I was secretly thrilled.

Those of us who know about all about the idea will tell you that there is no downside to a gap year. In fact, there are so many positives for students that it’s almost a no-brainer when deciding whether to defer college by a year.

Gap years come in all shapes and sizes; there is no one kind of program. They can involve semester-long or year-long travel abroad programs; community service combined with travel programs; language immersion combined with travel abroad programs; or post-secondary internships. And of course for many students, a year off means working and earning money to help defray the cost of college.

Universities are reporting an increase in deferment requests so that students can take a gap year; Harvard recently reported a 33% increase in the percentage of incoming students taking gap years. Anecdotally, students who delay starting college for a year report greater satisfaction with school than their counterparts who transition directly from high school to college; they are more serious about their academics and more focused on their work.

There is no shortage of gap year programs—a simple Google search will yield pages of results—but a good place to start is by looking at the Gap Year Association’s website: