The Gap Year, according to the PlanetGapYear.com, is a period of time when students take a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, serve, intern, or work - typically, but not necessarily, in a foreign country. A gap year experience can last for several weeks, a semester, or up to a year or more. Typically a gap year is taken between high school graduation and starting college, during college, or between college graduation and starting a career or grad school. The gap year has its origins in the United Kingdom, and since the 1980s taking time out has become a right of passage for thousands of UK students. The gap year is becoming increasingly popular with more US students. Studies done by leading universities indicate that students who take a year out before college are more focused and motivated when they arrive on campus than those who don't take this detour. In fact, Harvard's admissions department is so convinced of the benefits of a gap year that they offer the option to every admitted freshman in their acceptance letter.
Taking time out between high school and college used to evoke fear that the student would not follow through with college. Today, the college admissions offices at both public and private colleges and universities are getting more requests from students to defer enrollment, and are freely granting these requests provided the student can demonstrate they have specific goals and that the experience will better prepare them to succeed in college. The gap year can be a win-win experience for not only the students themselves but also for parents given that the dropout rate of college freshmen is nearly 30 percent.
What I'd like to see among evangelical Christian youth is the gap year concept applied to missions. Each year, thousands of evangelical youth take short-term missions trip all over the world, which is a wonderful thing, but very few of them actually stay in a foreign country and culture for more than the usual ten day short-term trip duration. I think a longer duration overseas - three months, six months, or at best a year - would be immensely beneficial to American teens by broadening their perspectives on the world so much more deeply than the 10-day short-term experience. Your thoughts?