What Is A GAP Year?

There’s been a lot of discussion this week about President Obama’s daughter, Malia, and her college plans. It’s been on the national TV news, all the wire services, and in a long College Confidential’s discussion forum thread. Her intentions have brought into focus an option about which you may know nothing or very little: the so-called GAP Year (I prefer the proper-noun nomenclature). I want to discuss that today.

The name “GAP Year” traditionally means taking a year off after high school to do other things before matriculating at the college where you have enrolled. In other words, it’s a year you spend doing other things that bridge the gap between high school and college. That makes sense.

I like to think of “GAP” as an acronym, standing for Gathering Additional Perspectives. When I think back to when I graduated from high school (yes, it’s possible for the human memory to span a chunk of time that large!), I was a wide-eyed idealist with not much real-world experience under my belt. I was the product of a somewhat sheltered upbringing by loving parents who made my life easy. My home town was Blue-Collar America Central and the core values of the Fifties were imprinted all over me.

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