As the competition to get into a good college, graduate school, internship, and full-time job heats up, it’s important to take a break and give yourself an opportunity to recover from the non-stop pressure to succeed and the stress of competing with your peers. Whether it’s before college enrollment or even a year off from work, there are myriad reasons why we decide to take time off from whatever we’ve been doing to explore, relax, and realign. And gap years increasingly are a common option for students transitioning from high school to college: each year, it’s estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 students take this route, whether it’s to travel, work, or pursue other goals before enrollment in their college or university.
In a nutshell, a gap year is a hiatus from academia, which allows students to pursue a meaningful adventure (however they define it) and arrive at college focused on their goals and with a greater measure of independence than they may have had before. Popular in Europe – particularly the U.K. – the concept of a year in limbo has only recently begun to catch on in the United States, where parents are concerned that their children will accrue debt and decide not to attend college at the end of their break.