Gap years have been common in Europe for many years, but the idea of taking the year between high school graduation and college for personal enrichment has been catching on in the U.S., and Harvard University reports 20% of their incoming students are considering a gap year.
Dr. Shannon Holzer teaches government, religion and philosophy at Houston Baptist University, and says for some the year can enhance development. “I absolutely think there is something to be said about taking a year off as Europeans do, to go out and understand what it means to be an adult, maybe travel, maybe to work,” he suggests.
At Rice University, Vice President of Admissions Yvonne Romero da Silva says it cannot be an excuse to simply take a year off, and students are required to set goals for themselves. “We ask for students to submit their plans, to let us know what they hope to do in a constructive way during that year away from school,” she explains.
A recent study found 40% of students are looking to take a gap year, perhaps spurred on by the ongoing restrictions of the Covid pandemic and virtual learning.
Both Dr. Holzer and Dr. da Silva highlight a downside of slowing momentum of learning, and losing a year of wage-earning and experience over peers in highly competitive disciplines.