What is Gap Year?
A gap year is an experiential period of time (a few months, a semester, or a full year) typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness. – What is a gap year?- Gap Year Association
While Gap Year has become a very broad term for a wide range of experiences, it is essentially a time for students to take some time between high school and college to recharge, review, and refocus themselves and their aspirations. Depending on how one spends the year, this endeavor can help build character, develop essential life skills, and hone independence before a student launches into the complex college campus environment.
Why Gap Year?
There are many advantages to taking a Gap Year. These are some general highlights of why students take a Gap Year.
Preparation for College
Many students begin college without a clear career path. Even those who have decided on a major may not know the full extent of what that major entails, and may change their career goals several times during their college career. Taking a gap year before college begins allows a student to further develop their professional aspirations, while continuing their maturation as a thinking adult.
According to the American Gap Association’s National Alumni Survey Report conducted by Temple University
45% of high school students feel prepared for college
73% of respondents reported that their gap year helped them increase readiness for college*
59% said it increased their interest in attending college
57% said it helped them figure out what they wanted to study in college*
80% of students change their majors in college
Students will change their major an average of three times.
“College requires…adaptation skills, and [students] will be much more ready to handle it if [they’ve] already shifted societies once before.”- 10 Reasons You Should Take A Gap Year- Huffington Post
Transitioning from 12+ years of rigorous education straight into college can lead to burnout for many college students. A gap year allows students extra time and space to explore new opportunities, take a much needed break from the grind of standard school structure, and begin college with newfound energy and purpose.
Burnout is one of the top reasons students take a break- How a Gap Year Can Make Students Successful- US News
In one study, 71% of students referenced the stress and pressures of high school and college acceptance driving their desire to take a gap year- Not All Types of Delay are Equal: Postsecondary Delay in the US And Taking a Gap Year- University of Pennsylvania
“Burnout is an inevitable result of trying to live up to alien goals. Time out can promote discovery of one’s own passions”- Harvard First Year Admissions Portal
Spending significant time away from home allows students the opportunity to be more independent, take on responsibilities, and focus on their self-growth. Most students who take a gap year cite the desire for self-discovery and personal development as a main reason for choosing their experiences.
“98% of students who responded to a 2015 survey from the American Gapyear Association reported that time off school helped them develop as a person. -Business Insider
97% said taking a gap year increased their maturity.” -Business Insider
Through introspection and guidance, students can obtain a clearer picture of what their next steps in life can be. Additionally, while students are on a gap year they can find internships or shadow people who work in fields they are interested in to get a better feel for what it entails. Students can gain a broader understanding of what life is like in different careers around the world.
“84% of respondents said that taking a gap year helped them acquire useful career skills, and 77% said that a gap year helped them find their purpose in life.” – Business Insider
“I [wasn’t] ready. If I hadn’t gone on a gap year, I might have spent four years and $200,000 on tuition to end up in that same country and find out the same thing”- Monika Lutz, Business Insider
“A gap year experience can also expose kids to the realities of the world that awaits them on the other side of college”- Washington Post
Global Perspective/Global Citizen
Spending time in another country can open a student’s eyes to the world around them, beyond the borders of their homes. There is history and culture to be found outside of our communities, and there are programs designed to immerse students in these cultures to gain a deeper appreciation for the world. When considering Israel, a country steeped in our own rich culture and history, the chance for students to spend time learning, exploring, and even walking the ancient streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, this can be an experience unlike any other.
85% [of Gap Year students] wanted to travel, see the world, and experience other cultures”- Temple University
“The general experience of “being in a new and different environment” was the most meaningful element of the overall gap year experience”- Temple University
“Taking time to explore new perspectives and grow as a person made a huge difference. I enjoy school now, and I’m succeeding at it.”-Simon, Times Colonist
Gap year programs can help students succeed in college and beyond, but not all gap year experiences are the same. Studies have shown that spending time abroad and being part of a structured program are two key elements to the gap year experience that will foster the greatest impact on students.
- The longer the gap year, the more impact was experienced. – American Gap Association’s National Alumni Survey Report
- The longer the amount of time spent outside of the U.S. during the gap year, the more impact was experienced. American Gap Association’s National Alumni Survey Report
- The more time spent participating in community service, the greater the impact.” American Gap Association’s National Alumni Survey Report
- Gap years need to be properly designed so they can challenge students with new roles and perspectives that accelerate their growth as thinkers and citizens.- A gap year could be the answer to the student mental health crisis- Quartz
- Not all gap-year programs provide enough structure or direction. When Shoshanna Silverberg, now 28, completed a gap-year program teaching in Ghana several years ago, she was assigned to a mixed-age classroom of 18 students and she wasn’t given any direction about what to teach. I was really uncomfortable with that,” she says. Delaying College to Fill the Gaps- Wall Street Journal