Taking a gap year does not necessarily mean working at the Gap. It's the commonly-used term for taking the uncommon path after high school. Instead of going directly to college or the workforce, a student takes a year off from school to travel, work, volunteer, or otherwise explore a passion.
"It really helps you set your goals and see where you are right now and how you could grow from a different experience and getting a different perspective on life in general," said Schae Maynard, a student at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.
Malia Obama is making "gap year" a trending thing, taking a year off between her high school graduation and her freshman year at Harvard. Schae Maynard did the gap year thing, too. Before she enrolled at NSU, she worked at a nonprofit agency in her native Trinidad, working with disadvantaged kids.
"It was one of the best decisions I made," Schae said. "It just really helped me focus on what I want to do in life and it just got me to a really good point because I definitely was not ready for college."
The things students can do in a gap year are virtually limitless.
"After high school I ran away with the circus, my family's four generations of circus people," Cassiano Santos said.
Yes, you read that correctly. After he graduated from Everglades High School in Miramar, Cassiano joined the circus. He didn't clown around or swing on the trapeze, he worked in sales.
"It was amazing, it was the best experience of my life, actually, we were in a different city every week," Cassiano said. "I met different nationalities, people from all over the world."
Cassiano said minding the gap helped him focus on what he wants to do in college. Gap years are obviously not the best course for everyone, but NSU's director of student success, Sheila Fabius, said good planning can make it worthwhile.
"You want to make sure that it's productive, that they're receiving a great experience, and that it's not an expensive vacation," Fabius said.
Fabius works with incoming students to plan their academic careers. She said some kids aren't ready for college-level work and independence, so a gap year can, pardon the expression, bridge that gap.
"So taking that gap year allows them to kind of work on developing their identity, exploring their passions, their interests," Fabius said.
Cassiano is a student at Broward College, with his sights focused now on eventually studying engineering at the University of Florida. No circus life for him.
"I love science and I like engineering and I like the idea of possibly changing the world one day through solar energy," the freshman said.
You might say Cassiano and Schae have very little in common, except that for each of them, taking a year off of school put them on the right academic path.