The Gap Year has now become standard, coming of age, practice.
In my day there was really no choice. You either went directly to University, or directly to work; I chose the latter.
These days no self respecting school-leaver would dream of doing either. They're off to India, on to Oz, buy a van, pick some fruit, get arrested, pick more fruit, on to Thailand, phone home for money; and when they realise that 5 years have somehow flitted-by, make one final grasp at freedom by staying in a squat in Paris. Then, and only then, when the centimes have completely run dry (and parents refuse to cough-up any more), will they finally make for home.
All three of my children took time off to travel, and all three returned wiser, more independent, and focused.
Above is Junior Magnon (the last to travel) with his lovely Swedish/Russian girlfriend, Kellogg, photographing themselves somewhere (in their van) in Oz.
I have only one gripe with the Gap Year ethos; it tends to teach children that the only time to contact parents is when you're BROKE.