Gap year

In the professional or career world, a gap year is a year before going to college or university and after finishing high school or taking a year off before going into graduate school after completing a bachelor as an undergraduate. It is also known as a sabbatical year. During this time students may engage in advanced academic courses, extra-academic courses and non-academic courses, such as yearlong pre-college math courses, language studies, learning a trade, art studies, volunteer work, travel, internships, sports and more.

Gap years are sometimes urged as a way for students to become independent and learn a great deal of responsibility prior to engaging in university life.[1]


In 1967, Nicholas Maclean-Bristol set up the educational volunteering charity Project Trust and sent three volunteers to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

In 1972, Gap Activity Projects was founded in the UK and later renamed Lattitude Global Volunteering in 2008.

In 1973, Graham "Skroo" Turner set up the company Topdeck, one of the first tour operators.

In 1978, the Prince of Wales and Colonel John Blashford-Snell began what is now known as Raleigh International by launching Operation Drake, an expedition voyage around the world following Sir Francis Drake's route.

In the United States, the gap year idea was promoted by Cornelius H. Bull to allow students more time to grow as a person, in 1980.[2]

By country

Australia and New Zealand

Australians and New Zealanders have a tradition of travelling overseas independently at a young age. In New Zealand this is known as "doing an OE" (Overseas experience). Sometimes an OE is limited to one year, but often Australians and New Zealanders will remain overseas for three to five years, with many working short-term in service industry jobs to fund their continuing travels. Europe and Asia are popular destinations for doing an OE. In Australia, through exchange programs and benefits for youth, there are so many opportunities for a young person to broaden their mind through travel in a gap year. [3] The concept of the OE is so ingrained in the New Zealand psyche that the national tax department devotes a section of its website telling people doing their OEs how it will contribute to the country.


The Time Credit system in Belgium entitles employees of one year per lifetime of absence from their job, in order to prevent burn-out and to provide an opportunity to pursue other important things in life.[4]


Denmark has sought to limit the number of students who take a year out, penalising students who delay their education to travel abroad or work full-time.[5] In 2006, it was announced that fewer students than before had taken a year out.[6] In April 2009, the Danish government proposed a new law which gives a bonus to students who refrain from a year out.[7]


In Ghana, most senior high school leavers have a year out from August to the August of the following year although this is not mandatory.


In Israel, it is customary for young adults who have completed their mandatory military service to go backpacking abroad in groups before starting university or a career.

Israel has also become a popular gap year travel destination for thousands of young Jewish adults from abroad each year.[8] There are over 10,000 participants annually who take a Masa Israel Journey gap year.[9]


The employment practice known as simultaneous recruiting of new graduates matches students with jobs before graduation, and the practice of a sabbatical is unusual in Japan as a result.


Nigerians typically enroll for a year long National service after college. It starts with a 3-week paramilitary boot-camp, from there, they are posted to a Government institution for the rest of the year.

South Africa

In the Republic of South Africa a year off is common . This is specifically for more affluent classes . School leavers often travel abroad for getting further life experience . It is not uncommon for gap year students in South Africa to go to Cape Town to get life experience . It is not mandatory but fairly common for individuals to volunteer during this time doing animal welfare or tree planting .

United Kingdom

Gap years began in the United Kingdom in the 1970’s and were seen as an interim period of 7 or 8 months between graduation and university (“Martin, 2010). This time was seen as time for travel or volunteer, and gaining life experience. All universities seem to welcome gap year applicants, no different from going straight to university from previous education.

United States of America

In the United States, the practice of taking a "year off" remains the exception, but is gaining in popularity.[10] Many colleges most notably Harvard University and Princeton University are now encouraging students to take time off, and some have even built gap year-like programs into the curriculum. Several high schools now have counselors specifically for students interested in taking a gap year.[11] Taking a year off has recently become slightly more common for Americans, with prevailing reasons as a feeling of being burned out of classroom education and a desire to understand oneself better.[12] Some 40,000 Americans participated in 2013 in sabbatical programs, an increase of almost 20% since 2006, according to statistics compiled by the American Gap Association. Universities such as New York University,[13] Amherst College, Princeton University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middlebury College,[14] Yeshiva University,[15] and Reed College have formal policies allowing students to defer admission.[12] The Tufts University has a new program that seeks to remove financial barriers that prevent students with no money from taking a gap year after completing secondary to travel or do volunteer work in other countries.[16]

Some formal gap year programs can cost as much as $30,000, but there are also cheaper alternatives becoming more widely available; some do this by offering room and board.[17][18] For example, the National Civilian Community Corps, an AmeriCorps program, offers 18-24 year olds (no age limit for Team Leader's) an all expense paid gap year (room & board, meals, transportation, etc.) in exchange for a 10-month commitment to National and Community service.[19] AmeriCorps NCCC members travel the country in diverse teams and perform a variety of tasks such as rebuilding trails in national parks, responding to natural disasters or working as mentors for disadvantaged youth.[19] As with most AmeriCorps programs, service members receive an education award of approximately $6,000 upon completion of their service that can be used toward qualified educational expenses or student loans.[20] The zero cost to the member model AmeriCorps offers makes it an attractive alternative to costly gap year programs while leveraging taxpayer dollars to strengthen American communities. Additionally, new federal partnerships such as FEMA Corps offer traditional gap year seekers an immersive professional and team building experience that can serve as a launch pad for their careers.[21]

Some government programs designed to help students afford college prohibit students from taking a gap year. For example, the Tennessee Promise program requires that students must "Attend full-time and continuously at an eligible postsecondary institution as defined in T.C.A. § 49-4-708 in the fall term immediately following graduation or attainment of a GED or HiSET diploma; except that a student enrolling in a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) may enroll in the summer prior to the fall term." [22]


In Venezuela, students from elite schools generally do their undergraduate studies outside of Venezuela. Gap years were unknown in Venezuela until educational consultant Nelson Agelvis, then counselor of the Moral y Luces Herzl-Bialik Jewish school in Caracas, insisted on having applicants to US colleges do them. The students went to leadership courses in Israel, PG years at elite US schools, tutorial colleges in the UK, work internships, language centers across the globe, and exploration gap years in remote countries. Today, the practice is widespread and Venezuela is a big economic contributor to the gap year, college studies and English studies industries, especially in countries such as Ireland.[23]


In Yemen, a defer year is mandatory between secondary school (High-School) and University. Unless one attends a private university, he must wait one year after secondary school before applying to University. Until the nineties it was mandatory for male graduates to go to the army for one year, and to teach in a school or work in a hospital for female graduates (and for men who cannot attend the army for health reasons).

See also

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Gap year travel.


  1. Taormina, Tricia (April 4, 2013). "What's a Gap Year Before College (& Should You Take One)?". Her Campus.
  2. The Center for Interim Programs
  3. "Travel More for Less". Bruce-Josephs. Travel Ideology. 30 June 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  4. Homepage of the Brussels-Capital Region Portal, Centre d'Informatique pour la Région Bruxelloise (CIRB)
  5. Andersen, Lars Otto (29 November 2004). "Sabbatår - sundt eller skadeligt?" (in Danish). Berlingske Tidende. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
  6. Stadigt yngre studerende med færre sabbatår starter på universiteterne, Pressrelease, Universitet og Bygningsstyrelsen, Ministeriet for Videnskab, teknologi og Udvikling (Danish)
  7. "Committee proposes cash incentives for speedy students". Jyllands-Posten. The Copenhagen Post. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
  9. , About Masa Israel Journey.
  10. Castellanos, Sarah (June 9, 2014). "Gap Year Travel Start Up Offers Programs 'Too Good to be True'". Boston Business Journal.
  11. Mohn, Tanya. "Take a Gap Year, With Your College's Blessing". Forbes.
  12. 1 2 SHELLENBARGER, SUE (December 29, 2010). "Delaying College to Fill in the Gaps". Wall Street Journal.
  13. Deferring Your Enrollment
  15. Yeshiva University Rankings
  16. "University Supports Student Sabbatical USA". What is USA News. 21 March 2014. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
  17. Hoder, Randye (14 May 2014). "Why Your High School Senior Should Take a Gap Year". Time.
  19. 1 2
  22. "Tennessee Promise Handbook" (PDF). Retrieved 24 April 2016. External link in |website= (help)

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