Growing Popularity of the Gap Year
It is no secret that students aspire to a college degree due to the broader employment opportunities and increased lifelong wages that come from it. However, not all millennials view going to college with the same urgency as in the past. As an education-focused investment bank, we are seeing an emerging trend among students to take a break (typically one year) from academics to pursue other interests.
Taking a gap year prior to college is gaining popularity among high school graduates. Once frowned upon by parents and academic advisors, there is a growing consensus that taking a year off from academics after high school may benefit a student’s ultimate success. By taking a gap year, students may enter college more focused, mature, and motivated for their undergraduate experience. Among all gap year students, approximately 90% matriculate in college within one year. Recognizing the positive effects on students, gap years are gaining acceptance by post-secondary institutions alike, and many elite universities allow students to defer admission for one year. Ivy League schools like Cornell, Dartmouth, Georgetown and Yale allow delayed enrollment for 20 to 60 freshman students each year.
There are numerous reasons to pursue a gap year and just as many opportunities to be gained from it. Some students seek unpaid volunteer or paid work experience to gain perspective, maturity and real-world experience. Others explore personal interests via travel, allowing them to gain independence and develop a purpose for their future. To be clear, a gap year does not need to be a break from academics altogether. Some universities offer programs that help bridge the rigorous transition from high school to college by allowing students to earn college credit in advanced courses. These classes help reinforce the academic concepts learned in high school as well as further build a student’s academic record in preparation for college.
Research performed by the Gap Year Association suggests that taking a structured gap year invariably serves to develop an individual into a more focused student with a stronger sense of purpose. Students return to school more prepared and often revitalized for life in the academic world. Research suggests that taking a gap year can also improve overall performance in college, with gap year participants graduating with higher grade point averages than observationally identical individuals who go straight to college out of high school. This outcome holds for gap year students with lower academic achievement in high school.
Going forward, it is likely we will see more students seeking alternatives to the traditional path to higher education, with the gap year being one variable influencing the way that students discover their long-term interests and a career.