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Some Arizona high school students choosing to take a ‘gap year’ before college

FILE- In this April 8, 2016, file photo, President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia walk from Marine One toward Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport. Malia is taking a year off after graduating from high school before attending Harvard University as part of an expanding program for students known as a "gap year." (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

A small, yet growing number of high school students across the country are choosing to take a year off between graduating high school and starting college. It’s called a “gap year.”

The latest, most high profile student to take a gap year is Malia Obama. Upon graduating from high school this spring, the president’s daughter will take a year off before attending Harvard in 2017. Some students at Horizon High School in Scottsdale are choosing to do the same thing.

“In the last, probably four years, more and more kids, are doing a gap year,” said Horizon High guidance counselor Mary Harris.

While Harris said she has seen growth among those taking gap years, the number of students at Horizon choosing that route is still in the single digits. She said the students who choose to take a gap year are motivated, go-getters.

She said one of her students will take a year to travel to Germany. Another student will pursue modeling in New York City. Harris said students who take gap years usually enter college more mature.

“It’s almost a time of growing up, and becoming mature and independent,” Harris said. “These kids have been on their own, (they’re) a little more independent and they’ve grown up a lot in that one year.”

Universities in Arizona are willing to work with admitted students who want to take a gap year. Matthew Ellis, executive director of admissions at Arizona State University, said students can defer their admission offer to travel, take an internship or serve in the military. He said gap years have increased in popularity in recent years.

Kasey Urquidez, dean of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Arizona, said they will work with students on an individual basis who want to take a gap year. They will also hold scholarships for gap year students that qualify.

Grand Canyon University spokesman Bob Romantic said they are not seeing a lot of gap year students, but they offer scholarships to both students who come directly out of high school and those who come indirectly, whether that be out of a junior college, another university or as a gap year student.

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