After she graduated from high school, high-achieving student Lauren Clark decided to take a year off before heading to college. In a piece in The New York Times, she describes her gap year. She taught English and helped build a library in Ghana and then studied art in Venice. In Ghana she discovered a passion for development and studied economics, Africa and international relations when she began her studies at Tufts the following year. Now she is pursuing a career in microfinance, and will be moving to India. Her career path was forged during her gap year and she has found something she loves. Taking a year off worked for her.

Should you, or your child, consider this? Perhaps. But the problem is that students who will want to pursue a gap year are probably not well-suited to it. The ambitious types who would benefit and not suffer from it are likely to be more hesitant. As Clark writes, "Family friends were afraid that I would never go to college and get a good job if I chose a gap year. But I knew I was committed." The problem is that many people who decide to "take a year off" have a a way of taking a life off, and suffering the consequences.

But there's a lot to be said for taking a year off to do something interesting abroad. Julie Tilsner recently made the case for youth as the time for travel, and she has some great points. To look into programs, try this search engine.

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