I admit that I originally was concerned-about having my daughter take a year off before college- neither my husband or I attended college and we were worried that she would lose "momentum".
We really felt like all the sacrifices we had made over her K-12 years were focused on her going to college/finishing college
However- by the spring of her senior year and she had been admitted to all her colleges- we also knew that she wasn't jazzed
about college the way that we ( and she) had hoped.
Taking time off- focused time- either in a Americorp program, or studying/working abroad- seemed to be a bargain- and give her some space to find the next path for her life.
If she hadn't been accepted to Americorps, there are also programs that are very low cost- partly because they are in countries with much lower cost of living than U.S. and partly because they involve work- for instance she had friends who got their divemasters off the Great Barrier Reef but they also lived and worked on a sheep station which covered their room and board +
Not so many at her college, but I do know other students who are taking a year off in the middle or after graduation, some changing paths totally, others just refocusing a little. But the age from 18-25- kids change so much- and they have so much to process that it doesn't bother me at all if they take 3 or 6 years to finish their degree.
I think that it makes a lot of sense for low income- middle income students to ease into college- and once they have graduated nobody is going to seperate out those who took 9 years to get their Ph.d from those who took 3.
For programs for those who are under 18- the Experiment in International living is one that is for younger students , and has scholarships- as well as very good recommendations from families at D2 school http://www.gunn.palo-alto.ca.us/~sbr...n/summer2.html