WEIGHING THE IDEA OF A YEAR OFF BEFORE COLLEGE
In Britain and other countries, young people sometimes take a "gap year," a year off between high school and college.
This idea never gained a big following in the United States. Recent news reports have suggested that interest may be growing, though there are no official numbers.
Charles Deacon is the dean of admissions at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He estimates that in the current first-year class of one thousand six hundred students, only about twenty-five decided to take a year off. He says this number has not changed much over the years.
Mister Deacon says the most common reason is to have a chance to travel. But he says international students may take a gap year to meet requirements at home for military duty.
Some high school graduates see a year off as a chance to recover after twelve years of required education. But it can also give students a chance to explore their interests. Students who think they want to be doctors, for example, could learn about the profession by volunteering in a hospital for a year.
Many colleges and universities support gap-year projects by permitting students to delay their admission. Experts say students can grow emotionally and intellectually as they work at something they enjoy.
The Harvard admissions office has an essay on its Web site called "Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation." It praises the idea of taking time off to step back, think and enjoy gaining life experiences outside the pressure of studies. It also notes that students are sometimes admitted to Harvard or other colleges in part because they did something unusual with that time.
Of course, a gap year is not for everyone. Students might miss their friends who go on directly to college. And parents might worry that their children will decide not to go to college once they take time off.
Another concern is money. A year off, away from home, can be costly.
Holly Bull is the president of the Center for Interim Programs. Her company specializes in helping students plan their gap year. She notes that several books have been written about this subject. She says these books along with media attention and the availability of information on the Internet have increased interest in the idea of a year off.
And she points out that many gap-year programs cost far less than a year of college.