Higher education experts say that giving students an opportunity to explore the real world helps them mature. And early research reveals that once they restart their academic studies, they actually perform better than those who go straight from high school to college.
An estimated 1.2 percent of first-time college freshmen take a gap year, most of them male students, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California Los Angeles.
"These are still small percentages," said John Pryor, director of the cooperative institutional research program at HERI. But college admission officers say the gap year is gaining momentum.