The “gap year” – taking a year off between high school and college or university – is a well-established tradition in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. And it now seems to be gaining traction among Canadians.
For example, Travel CUTS, the student-owned travel company, offers gap-year abroad programs. There’s also a new group, mygapyear.ca, that does “personalized gap year planning” for students and young adults.
Co-founder Tara Rinomato sees the gap year as “an opportunity to strengthen soft skills and enhance an application form/resume and we’re thrilled to bring these life-changing experiences to our clients.”
That sounds a bit mercenary to me – I’ve always thought of the gap year as more of an opportunity to go backpacking in exotic locales and find oneself – but I do understand that some people are a bit more goal-oriented. And no doubt parents would be more comfortable with their kids taking a year off if it was a bit more structured.
York University is also tapping into the gap year phenomenon with its Bridging the Gap program. The university says it “celebrates” a student’s choice to take a year off to gain work experience, do community service or go on an international exchange and will reserve the student’s admission spot for up to a year provided he or she is accepted into the program.
Is there a downside to taking a gap year? Not really, according to a 2008 Statistics Canada report published jointly with Canadian Policy Research Networks. The report found that students who delay postsecondary education don’t face a disadvantage in the labour market later on – as long as they actually complete their PSE once started.
Of course, that is the worry of many parents: that if their child delays going to college or university, he or she may simply decide not to return.