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Paying for College

More Colleges Paying for Gap Years

Students defer attendance to take time out for public service.

After carefully building high school transcripts and diligently applying to college, a growing number of students are putting their plans on hold to pursue other interests. And an expanding contingent of schools will even help students pay for a year off for public service, with the aim of having participants come to campus more mature and engaged in their studies.

See Our Starting Out Column: How to Make Money While Traveling Abroad

Princeton University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among the schools sponsoring gap-year programs for accepted freshmen. Tufts University’s program will begin in 2015.

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Brady Gilliam spent nine months teaching English and working in medical clinics in five countries before arriving on UNC’s campus as a freshman this year. Gilliam, from Charlotte, N.C., received $7,500 from the school and paid for the rest of his trip with savings from previous summer jobs. “My experience was its own education,” says Gilliam.

For now, school-funded programs are small and acceptance is competitive—for example, only about 10% of applicants are accepted into UNC’s program. But interest in gap-year programs is growing at schools nationwide, says Ethan Knight, of the American Gap Association. Students who make it into a school-financed program might pay one-fourth or less of the cost of a typical three-month gap program through a private organization.

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