What an intriguing idea! I just graduated from high school, and while I loved my academic classes and learned a tremendous amount senior year, I did sometimes feel a strong desire to do more than just sit in a classroom. After I decided on a college, I managed to get my parents to agree reluctantly on my gap year plans.
Now, while most of my friends are off reading Proust or learning about modeling with differential equations (which I will be happy to do in one year's time), I am venturing off into unfamiliar territory for the next several months: interning at cool organizations, traveling to multiple continents, volunteering, training in yoga… it’s learning, but in a different way, and I couldn't be happier with my decision.
I feel like the next step, particularly in the US, is to make gap years more widely accepted. Parents are often reluctant because they’re worried that their kids will slack off and lose motivation for school, students are reluctant because they’re ready to make new friends and have the college experience, and society is reluctant because we are made to believe that we should all follow one conventional path.
Plus, as the article said, students are faced with (and deterred by) mostly pricey options organized by for-profit companies. While I’m sure most of those programs are well-run and students gain a lot from them, more organizations such as City Year should exist. Furthermore, we should be encouraged to seek out and plan our own experiences that aren't necessarily tied any certain structure. Sean's project seems awesome and I am hopeful that this dialogue on gap years (and senior year as gap years) continue!