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The gap year trend

America’s (small) new trend: taking a gap year

Gap years have long been popular in Europe and Australia. Now, a small but growing group of U.S. teens and their parents are jumping aboard the gap year trend.

When Hillary Billings’ oldest son, Ted, was accepted at New York University (NYU), she was proud — but concerned. “We felt he needed another year to mature,” Billings says. Before her son was “thrown into the deep end in the Big Apple,” she wanted him to take a gap year to mature a little so he’d be ready for the urban living, social life, and academics at NYU. […]

Gap years have long been popular in Europe and Australia. The concept originated in the grand tours enjoyed by aristocratic youth in the late 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. […]

Upper-class vagabonds traversed the continent and exotic corners of the British Empire, familiarizing themselves with foreign flavors, curious customs, and opposing perspectives. In the 1970s, soul-searching backpackers put their twist on the tradition, which continues today. Due to economic conditions in 2012, only 12.5 percent of UK students took a gap year — it was the lowest number in a decade. In Australia, nearly a quarter of all students take gap years. In the U.S., though, the numbers are much smaller: an estimated 1.2 to 2 percent of students take a gap year. […]

Celebrity endorsers and media coverage help fuel the trend. Malia Obama’s gap year, before starting Harvard in fall 2017, is an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Spain. Benedict Cumberbatch spent his teaching English at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and Prince Harry helped build a clinic in Lesotho, Africa. […]

Gap year companies also play a role, motivating curious parents, particularly those who can afford the astronomical prices. (A three-month excursion to broaden your teen’s perspective can cost upwards of $15,000 — and still leaves teens 3/4 of the year… for parents to pay for?)

by: Hank Pellissier | February 2, 2017. Source.


  1. Using dates and places, show the origins and evolution of gap years.
  2. Name three celebrities who took a gap year. Say what their gap years consisted in.
  3. Pick out words related to money. Show how it can be a barrier to taking a gap year.
  4. Explain to your school’s carreers officer why taking a gap year is a new trend in the USA.