In the Hot Seat American Gap Association's Ethan Knight By Michelle Baran / May 16, 2016 Share 1 -- The concept of taking a gap year, or time off between high school and college to have meaningful travel experiences, is catching on in the U.S., and the practice offers an entirely new realm of opportunity for the travel industry. Senior editor Michelle Baran talked with Ethan Knight, founder of the American Gap Association, about what travelers interested in having a gap year experience should know.Q: Why did you establish the American Gap Association? Ethan Knight A: I had seen a lot of people say they were interested in a gap year, loved the concept, but they didn't know what good gap year programs were.Q: What does the association do?A: The American Gap Association primarily works in four main buckets. One of those is standards and accreditation: It's really designed to help parents and families and educators know which are the good programs. We also do work in research, because we're always trying to find out more about what makes these programs so successful. We're also very keen on advocacy: getting in front of more people to talk about what a gap year is, what it can do for them and some of the trips [that can lead to] a successful gap year. And then the final of the four buckets is, frankly, in that socioeconomic parity effort. We're trying to, ideally, get access to federal financial-aid dollars for all gap year students.Q: Are members predominantly nonprofit organizations, educational institutions or for-profit travel companies?A: It's about ... half for-profit, half nonprofit. We do have universities; American University has their own gap year program, and they are currently going through our application process. We also have a lot of the study-abroad organizations, or the volunteer-focused organizations that have started to adapt their existing programs or added more education material to support student learning or are investing more money to make their security procedures more robust. So we're seeing a lot of people coming into this space.Q: How easy is it to defer college for a year?A: It used to be that we would always advise [students to] apply to school, get accepted, defer and don't mention that you're taking a gap year until you have that letter of acceptance in your hand. What we're seeing now is that trend is shifting. Students are being encouraged to actually say during the application process that they are taking a gap year. In dialogue with your admissions counselor, state that you're thinking about it and [ask about] the college's approach to taking a gap year. Increasingly, colleges like Colorado College, if you say that you're taking a gap year, they don't ding you at all; they actually applaud it, and you are ranked higher in the overall application rating system.Q: What kinds of gap year experiences are colleges responding to most?A: You really want it to hopefully have some sort of service component. I think colleges see that as a really great mechanism towards student development and outcomes. The other big piece, and I can't emphasize this enough, is to have some deeply thought-out reflections. The whole process is meant to be a maturing one, a growth-oriented one. You need to be able to explain that well to a college admissions counselor and hopefully an employer, too.