What is a Gap Year and Where Did It all Start?

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Where did it all start?
With school supplies in hand each year like the annual migration of birds, student return to school. With growing pressure placed on this generation over previous, creating a burnout in students and limiting the full potential that could be reached is a common concern. The studying, test and exams have finished yet students continue straight from high school to college. Have you ever wondered why you must be returning to school each year in a process that has been non-stop since you were 5 years old and when do I get a change? A gap year can provide that change, considered to be a break in education between high school and university .

Students from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia have encouraged students to take a year away from the education system to learn about themselves or to explore other parts of the world that they may not have seen before. The trend is now becoming a new normal or acceptable here in the United States.

The most traditional gap year is taken by students between the graduation of high school and the first year of college. The term now is much broader and can refer to a break between college semesters and graduate school.

1960’s United Kingdom can be credited with the creation of the Gap Year. While the origin of the term “gap year” is not definite but a company formed in the United Kingdom called GAP Activity Projects that placed students in volunteer projects for their Gap Year which brought the idea of taking a year off to students is considered by some as the home or origin of the term gap year.

Traditionally, the trips started off as individuals traveling to India on so called Hippie Trails, sometimes they would meet other travels and join together on their travels.
The growth of independent travel continued to steadily grow in the 1970’s and business soon began to cater to this growing market. One of the first companies started in London is Top Deck Travel, founded in 1973 by Australian Graham Turner, he took paying individuals on a double decker bus to Kathmandu.

Tony Wheeler, a young British student the same year created the Lonely Planet brand travel books when he needed to find basic information on Asia and he could not find a suitable option. Now with tour companies, and travel advice books a need with help to book trips was still present. STA Travel, was the first travel agency created to cater to those under the age of 26 allowing them the opportunity to book world wide travel.

In the 80’s and 90’s the gap year started to change. Backpacking became a popular, cheap form of travel. This cool independent form of travel was easier and cheaper so as airfare prices fell the gap year became a rite of passage for many students.

Today, the gap year has transformed from traveling around the world to include working with charity organizations, volunteering, study abroad as well as working towards saving money. In most cases it does not matter what you do with your time off, the importance is that you are taking the break and that you are spending it in a meaningful way.

One of the reasons for taking a gap year is to assist with offsetting the cost of going to college. In recent years, there has been a decline in the funds available in financial aid. An advantage of waiting between high school and college is that a student is able to work and if able to live at home then saving money for college is possible. During this time at work, students are also able to take advantage and network with future employees and colleagues. Graduating from college many individuals find themselves under a mountain of student debt, a gap year between high school and college or between college semesters can be an opportunity to earn money to put towards tuition or other cost. Bored and burned out is a feeling shared by many students at graduation from high school. The gap year provides a longer break and relief from the pressures of going into a higher...
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