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The Gap Year: Generally considered a year between academic sessions, either between high school and the beginning of college, or
a break within the four year college cycle.

Two or three decades ago, the concept of a gap year was a bit more of a unique and unusual consideration.  The norm was to graduate high school with your classmates (all in the same age stratus), and continue your educational progression in the college or university of your choice.  The plan/expectation
was that within four years, a good job was waiting for you upon graduation.  While going to college in the 1950s and 1960s was not as wide-spread, from the 1970s through the 1990s attending college was significantly more common, with registration and attendance numbers continually escalating.
So, that “script” of High School-to-College became even more prevalent.

But times have changed. At a minimum, graduation from a university may no longer provide any immediate guarantee of employment in today’s job market.  And the differences between student considerations now and then may run even deeper: most significantly, for instance, with the advent of the information age.  Stories continue to circulate of computer whiz kids (who dropped out of college or never attended), and yet have gone on to successfully develop lucrative start-up companies. 

The gap year can mean different things to different people.  But, perhaps most importantly the “use” of the gap year is the key.  In any event, some similar considerations can likely be applied, including the following questions:

  • Can the gap year help to wait out the soft job market?
  • Will leaving school make the student feel “left behind?”
  • Can the extra time provide a greater life experience with outside work (and perhaps maturity)?
  • Will a break from the academic cycle lead to long-term academic derailment?
  • Can leveraging the gap with job experience broaden the application to get into a better school?
  • Is the gap year just an excuse to avoid college?
  • Can the gap year help to focus priorities for selecting a major?
  • What are the plans for the gap year?
  • Is more school the right answer?

The bottom line is that advanced education is a significant investment in both time and capital.  For many people, committing four years of life and graduating from a university is a treasured life experience.  For others, the prospect of MORE school is less than appealing.  The gap year may be
a plan, or the gap year may just be an escape?  I think the plan is the key.

The facts remain: Current and significant drop-out rates and academic disruption rates exist. The gap year may increasingly be considered an option for students.  For whatever the reasoning, hopefully the academic gap year provides a successful option to increase overall higher education graduation rates.

There are no right answers: Consider accordingly – Oh, and have a plan.