The Gap Year: An Alternative to Going Directly to College

More and more students are choosing to take a year off between high school and college; this is usually called a "gap year." Students may spend this year traveling, studying, participating in community service, working, or some combination of these. Taking time off can be a daunting prospect, but Park students who have decided to pursue this option have been thrilled about their decisions. A gap year is a wonderful opportunity for students to try something new before continuing their formal education.

Many students divide their year into several segments. For example, a student may spend three months volunteering at a kangaroo rescue society in Australia and then five months working at a Baltimore women's shelter. Not all can afford to take part in exotic activities, but there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.

We recommend that students interested in a gap year apply to college as seniors, then defer their college admission for a year. Nearly all colleges allow students to defer; in fact, some schools strongly encourage students to take a gap year.

We strongly suggest that gap years be planned well in advance. Time off is most successful when students think about their interests and plan accordingly.