Why Take a Gap Year?

The typical path for a student seeking higher education is to enter college right after high school. For what possible reason, then, would–or should–a teen consider deviating from that path to pursue a period of personal growth at home or abroad? Amy and Mike invited association executive Ethan Knight to enumerate multiple answers to the question, “Why take a gap year?”

What are five things you will learn in this episode?

  1. What exactly is a gap year, and how does one work?
  2. How does “radical juxtaposition” improve perspective?
  3. What three big reasons impel students to take a gap year?
  4. What is the optimal timeline to address gap years for applicants to public and private schools?
  5. Do any schools reward or penalize a commitment to a gap year in the application process?


In 1995, Ethan Knight was one of several hundred students packed into a high school assembly at Catlin Gabel where he first learned about gap years. He researched his options with a Gap Year Consultant, and eventually traveled for 7 months to India, Nepal, and Tibet. After his “time on” he returned to Willamette University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy and minors in Environmental Science and Spanish. Ethan supported more than 2,000 students on their own gap year experiences, managed and subsequently founded a gap year organization and founded the Gap Year Association. Ethan has traveled to more than 50 countries, co-authored the Fair Trade Learning Standards and the Gap Year Standards, launched two nonprofits, one college, and three for-profit organizations. He has been a guest speaker on three continents, a TEDx presenter, and is a fan of all puns.

Find Ethan at ethan@gapyearassociation.org.


Planning Your Gap Year


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