May 6, 2019

An Update on Gap Year by Holly Bull

As a gap year student and gap year counselor at the Center for Interim Programs, I have witnessed, supported, and engaged in the gap year movement in the US since its inception in the early 80s. At that time, no one really knew or was talking about gap years although they were in full swing in the UK. People took time off but there was no term for it and little awareness of options or support. I wouldn't call gap years mainstream just yet but I've definitely seen an explosion of interest, press, and awareness within the past five years. Some important factors: the nationwide wide gap year fairs spreading the word since 2008, an American gap year association forming in 2012 as a resource, Malia Obama's 2016 gap year giving the field a spike of visibility and press, and colleges paying closer attention to gap year students' higher GPA data. Just this year, Colorado College became an official gap year research hub. We are also seeing alumni families donating money to colleges to fund gap year programs or create incentives for colleges to support the gap year option, e.g. Princeton University's funded Bridge Year Program, UNC Chapel Hill's Global Gap Year Fellowship program, and, most recently, Duke University's Gap Year Program. We here at the Center for Interim Programs have now created gap years for over 8,000 families across the US and easily spoken with triple that number of individuals in our effort to promote and educate Americans about the gap year option. This outreach has created its own broad and compelling ripple effect. I believe the gap year option is definitely here to stay in the US and that it will eventually become mainstream and valued as an option for all to consider upon graduating high school (and beyond).

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