Parents & Students

The prospect of taking a successful Gap Year should both recognize the benefits and challenges inherent for the student, but also honor those of the parent too. Taking a Gap Year can very much be seen as one: it's 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]. In essence, the putative rights-of-passage of taking a Gap Year has anecdotally been a blessing for both the student, and the parent in terms of creating some real-world circumstances both where the parent literally can't simply come to the rescue, and where the student is "set up for success" to navigate real-world problems successfully, to learn and grow from them. 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 Years (one of the American Gap Association's central goals), a recent survey of 300,000 first-time freshmen at four-year colleges and universities found 1.2% waited 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 and notoriety. 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:

  1. Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school, and,
  2. A desire "to find out more about themselves."

And while we here at the American Gap Association feel that everyone has something to gain from taking a Gap Year, the choice to do so, as Holly Bull, President of the Center for Interim Programs states, is perhaps the most important aspect of taking a Gap Year. The student's decision to take a Gap Year is both a declaration, often times, of creating their own path rather than taking the one that's in front of them. Thus, in conversation with a student, parents must understand that to get the most benefit of a Gap Year - much as in life - the student has to take ownership in their decision to take one: it can't be a mandate by the parent.