According to the Gap Year Association, a gap year is a year “on” during which students, typically after graduating from high school, do not go directly to college. While no rules govern gap years, students who take them typically spend their year emphasizing experiential education.

Some students challenge their comfort zones and make sacrifices during their gap years that they would not necessarily make if they went directly from high school to college. Many students take gap years because they are unsure of what they want to study in college, and such students typically use the gap year to explore potential majors and career paths that might be available to them once they earn degrees in those fields.

Other students may take gap years to volunteer, feeling that a year of service is both a great way to give back and to better understand the world beyond the one in which they grew up. Burnout from the competitive pressures of high school is another reason many students take gap years.

The Gap Year Association urges students considering gap years to do their research regarding the opportunities available to them during the year so their year is truly transformative and not merely a year to pass time without the pressures of school.