Taking a year off from school, work and obligations to travel the world sounds like a fantasy to me, but is actually a reality to a growing number of students.
As a type “A” personality, I’ve grown up with the conventional path to success with academics as a first priority. With envy and curiosity, I would read article after article of people my age taking a gap year, and would be plagued with questions: How many students are actually taking gap years? How did they afford this luxury? Were they motivated to come back to school after their gap year or did they just wander aimlessly around the world?
According to the 2015 National Alumni Survey, the number of students enrolled in gap year programs in 2014-2015 has doubled from 10% to 23% in a one-year period. There has been overwhelming research that indicates gap years actually promote productivity and confirm career aspirations of students. Ivy League colleges, like Harvard and Yale, encourage their students to defer college, even recommending the option in their letter of admission. When Malia Obama opted for a gap year before attending Harvard for the 2017 school year, we had to wonder: is this the future of education? High school graduation + gap year + then college?
Bob Clagett, a former Dean of Admissions for Middlebury College, found that 90% of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year. These students come back refreshed and motivated with a clearer sense of their future. Claggett found that a gap year leads to an over-performance in academics with an increase of GPA anywhere between 0.15 to 0.45. Additionally, according to the American Gap Organization, 60% of students used a gap year to explore their career aspirations, either discovering or confirming their academic major once returning to college.
Society as a whole has now become more accepting in students delaying their education and allowing more avenues than simply going to college. This shift has been caused by overworked and unmotivated students who have temporarily lost their passion for education and are looking to find themselves. We are no longer just looking for the conventional path to success, but rather obtaining success through our passions and what makes us happy, and a gap year has become the perfect opportunity to find just that.