Here are a number of ideas to consider taking a a year off from school
You may hesitate about taking a gap year, worrying that you may lose your mental alertness and adversely affect your studies when you do finally get to university or college. But this doesn't have to happen. It's possible for you to study during your time off, not in the concentrated way you did in high school, but taking courses or having learning experiences that concentrate solely on your own interests and desires.
There are multitudes of possibilities, some of them involving volunteer programs in which to participate. For example, if you're interested in working with animals, then you could spend a few months at a koala sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia. Or maybe you will think of building a home internet business. Or perhaps you'd prefer to enroll in a short art and design program in Ghana, or further your art studies in Italy. Many of the gap year websites like http://www.gapyear.com/ have links to programs like these. Some also include discussion forums where people post information about these opportunities while others share tips and information from experiences they've already gained from their own gap year travel and work.
When you do decide what, and how, you want to study while you're on your gap year, take some time to do a little research. If, say, you want to work with animals, then you don't want to discover too late that it's impossible because you needed a short training course to learn a few required skills. You'll also want to be sure you only consider gap year jobs that are with reputable and reliable organizations. If you consult forums at http://www.gaptear.com/ or http://www.gapyearworldwide.com/, then you can often get feedback to help weed out questionable groups.
Whether you volunteer in Africa, take art courses in Italy, or study the Korean language in Seoul, your gap year doesn't have to mean that you're letting your brain atrophy. You can take courses or do educational work that feeds your soul directly, but keeps your mind active. In this way, you won't need to worry that you might lose your intellectual edge when you return to your regular studies. You can give yourself a broader education in the world, then go back to university and be ready to buckle down.