AirTalk for March 26, 2014

Why are some colleges paying students to take a 'gap year?'

Travelling On A Shoestring - Backpackers Around The World

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Youth backpackers of Spain study a map outside the Circus hostel Berlin on July 19, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. Millions of youth people taking a gap year between high school and college to see the world. Backpacking is the cheapest way to travel the world.

Traveling the world with nothing more than a passport and a backpack has long been the norm among college-bound kids in Europe. Now students at Tufts University are being offered a helping hand to indulge in a little wanderlust.

Starting this fall, Tufts will provide funds for up to fifty students to travel abroad before entering their freshman year. Tufts is not alone. Princeton offers gap-year aid based on need. The University of North Carolina offers $7,500 to gap year applicants, as reported by the Associated Press.

According to the American Gap Association, a gap year overseas can cost up to $30,000. By removing the financial barrier to overseas exploration, it's hoped participants will broaden their worldview through a variety of volunteer and education programs. Gap year studies also suggest that a constructive break away from traditional education can boost a student's academic performance.

Europeans encourage young people to take gap years, why have Americans been more reluctant? Should all students be offered financial assistance to take a gap year before college? If you took one, how did it help or hinder you on your return? After a gap year, are students more focused and less likely to switch majors and career goals?


Ethan Knight, Executive Director, American Gap Association

Bob Clagett, Director of College Counseling at St. Stephen's Episcopal School and former senior admissions officer at Harvard College. He's conducted research into the impact on gap years on students


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