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. In the absence of a Right of Passage in the United States, 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." (Rebecca R. Ruiz, New York Times.) In essence, 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 focal points), 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, 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 the Gap Year. The decision to take a Gap Year is both a declaration, often times, of carving your own path rather than taking the one that's been prescribed by society. 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.