Gap Years: European vs. American

Written by  May 25, 2011

Why are students on this side of the pond less likely to take a year off before college?

What are the differences between the gap year trend in Europe vs. the United States, and why are students on this side of the pond less likely to take a year off before college?

This recent op-ed piece from the Greenwich Citizen posed some interesting questions about the different mentalities between European and American educational systems, standards, expectations and parental involvement that offers a compelling explanation for why gap years are more prevalent in Europe. 

Some key points:

  • Parents and institutions put more pressure on students to perform and deliver results through grades and achievements, leading them to push students straight into college.
  • European communities value real-world education, exploration and, well, being mature enough to handle college.

The writer advocates for students taking a gap year to open their minds before jumping into post-secondary education, as long as it's not an excuse to party, drink and spend money. A better way, she says, to spend a gap year is to use it as an opportunity for growth, discovery and, yes, a chance to work or volunteer abroad.

What do you think? Do you think these generalizations about Americans vs. Europeans are justified? What about Canadian students? Where do we fall along the spectrum? 

Further reading: 

Don't Let School Get in the Way of Your Education: The Value of a Gap Year

How to Plan Your Gap Year

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Published in Editor's Desk
Zalina Alvi

Zalina grew up in Toronto and began her career in journalism at the York University campus newspaper. Before joining Verge in 2010, she worked for a documentary festival, a non-profit organization and various magazines and newspapers. Zalina has had some eclectic travel experiences, including reporting for a newspaper on the island of Molokai in Hawaii.

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