Last Spring, Malia Obama announced that she would defer her Harvard acceptance to take a gap year. We’re on pins and needles to learn how she plans to spend her time away from the classroom and excited for her to join the thousands of other young adults annually who elect to take a gap year.

Malia’s announcement really put gap year on the map in the United States (it’s been a common practice in the U.K. and Australia for years). National publications The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Business Insider, and Yahoo News have featured gap year. Even Benedict Cumberbatch can’t avoid the gap year spotlight.

Schools like Harvard and Princeton have endorsed gap years because they recognize how a year outside the classroom benefits students.

“The feedback from students almost all the time has been that this experience was transformative,” Harvard Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons has said. “The more life experience you bring, the better off you are in school.”  

Studies prove what these schools have noticed anecdotally. Bob Clagget, former Dean of Admissions at Middlebury College, studied the academic performance of gap year students. He found that they performed better in the classroom and graduated with higher GPAs than their counterparts who didn’t take gap years.

We learned in a recent survey of Rustic Pathways Gap Year alumni that they are attending some of the country’s best colleges and have started successful careers. They are doing really cool things like creating incredibly powerful documentary pieces featured in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times.

Like Malia, our gap year students recognized the opportunity they had to gain life experience and grow as individuals before returning to the classroom.  

Our gap year alumni would be happy to chat with you (and Malia) about their experiences. To schedule a call, email gap@rusticpathways.com. Or for more information, check out Rustic Pathways Gap Year programs

About the Author

Casey Atchley

Gap Year Admissions Coordinator

Casey received his bachelor’s from Indiana University in Spanish literary translation and philosophy. Between years of undergrad, he took a gap year to volunteer as a volcano tour guide and English teacher in Nicaragua. With exceptional bilingual communication and leadership, he has managed summer programs in Costa Rica and Rustic Pathways outreach in Europe. A new member of the Gap Year team, he now works with students planning their own gap years.