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The Gap Year: A New Educational Trend

Many high school students on the verge of entering college can be ill prepared for the challenges ahead. Whether financially or emotionally unready, students are looking for alternative to jumping right back into the academic rat race. One alternative that is growing in popularity across the United States is called the gap year. Also known as the year off, year out and deferred year, the gap year is time taken by students between completion of high school and beginning college in order to do something different. Essentially it is a break from academics to pursue other passions or endeavors. Even some colleges are becoming more supportive of this time off.

The gap year, a trend common in Europe, can be spent in a variety of ways depending on the student. A great deal of students spend the time traveling across the country and abroad. As the world gets smaller and more connected, more and more people are getting passports in order to immerse themselves in foreign cultures. Some students use this time to volunteer. Organizations like AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity, as well as international aid organizations, are seeing an influx of recent high school graduates looking for enriching volunteer experiences before heading off to college. Another popular choice for gap year kids is to work and save money. The cost of attending an institute of higher education is rising each year and many students can’t afford the bill. Saving as much money as possible for one year can really help when they do decide to go back to school. Gaining real world professional experience through work is also common. Many find that working for a year offers them a better idea of what to do with their futures before they dive into college. There are even companies that can provide structured gap year programs for students that need additional assistance. From language and culture immersion to community service trips, organizations like Dynamy and City Year take students out of their environments and into the world in an organized manner.

Each of these reasons to partake in a gap year, though different, can provide students with a better sense of self, more maturity and a unique experience different from that of their peers. Many students believe that taking this time off for themselves many not allow them to finish college faster, but it will allow them to finish college better.

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