In the spring of 2016, Malia Obama announced she’d be taking a gap year before she attends Harvard in 2017. Taking a gap year is becoming a popular choice for many high school graduates, and some studies suggest that students who take a gap year actually end up doing better in college. So, is it time to take a break?
Fast Facts and Stats
• Taking a gap year is common in other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia.
• According to the Higher Education Research Institute at the UCLA, 1.2 percent of college freshmen deferred going to college right after high school.
• Approximately 90 percent of students who take a year off begin college once their gap year is complete, according to the Wall Street Journal.
• Harvard has seen a 33 percent increase in students taking a gap year, according to CIEE.org.
• MIT saw gap year students double between 2009 and 2010, according to CIEE.org.
• Approximately 60 percent of students who took a gap year said taking time off to explore helped them pick and stick to their major, according to a study by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson.
The Upsides to Taking a Breather
According to an NPR article, students who delay college for a year are more likely to:
• Be more selective in which college they chose
• Have a higher college GPA than students who went straight to college
• Be less likely to binge drink or participate in other risky behaviors
• Graduate on time
Some of America’s top colleges are offering scholarships to students who defer college for a year, including Princeton and University of North Carolina.
4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Gap Year
If you’ve decided to take a year off, congratulations! Here’s how to make the most of the next 12 months.
• Have a set of goals for your year. Many students travel, while others volunteer. There are many programs available for gap year students, including AmeriCorps, City Year, WorldStamp or Summit Adventures, allow students to grow on personal and professional levels.
• See it as a way to build skills you may have overlooked in high school. Every student has that one subject they wish they were better in. Take this time as a way to get out of your comfort zone and learn more.
• Know where you’re going once your time is up. Typically, students commit to college once their year is complete. Whether you’re going away for school or attending classes online, have a firm plan in place so you can return to academia.
• Apply what you learned to college life. If you loved the hands-on learning approach you experienced during your gap year, look for similar options at your college. This could include studying abroad or getting involved in extracurricular activities.