Do Students Really Need A Gap Year?

A gap year is something that has had mixed reactions for years now, often sparking controversy and curiosity within’ all involved in the decision can often inflict stress on the individual and their loved ones while discussing or organising one. In saying that, does a gap year actually help an individual with their future endeavours? does it have any long-lasting benefits? or is it even necessary to take one at all? According to University Of Sydney researcher, Andrew J. Martin, there might be more to a gap year than we think.

In the Journal of Educational Psychology, researcher Andrew J. Martin previously conducted two studies on the academic motivation and performance of more than 2,800 high school and college students in reference to gap years. His results quickly showed that Australian students were more likely to take a gap year if they had low academic performance and motivation in high school. Yet, former students who had taken gap years prior reported significantly higher motivation in college—in the form of “adaptive behaviour” such as planning, task management, productivity and all-round persistence, than the students who didn’t take a gap year.

“Findings from the two studies suggest that participation in a gap year may be one means of addressing the motivational difficulties that might have been present at school,” Mr. Martin wrote in the new study.

The most recent statistics were conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Centre of Education Statistics. These figures showed that across the United States, just a small 7.6 percent of 2003-2004 graduate students delayed their entry into college for 12 months. While around 84 percent reported that they were working and another 29 percent reported that they traveled or pursued other interests during that time, both of which include gap-year programs or activities. Although, unlike the Australian research conducted, the NCES found students who delayed entry into college were less likely to complete a degree, although a researcher for postsecondary studies and a career education devision, Aurora D’Amico, had stated that the NCES does not formally publish results for gap-year participants.

“I think more parents every year are starting to come to terms with the notion that life for themselves and their kid isn’t going to end if the kid isn’t in a college freshman class two months after high school,” said Reid Goldstein, a concerned parent who struggled to find information for post-high school education for his children.

Aside from various research, a number of highly recommended and elite colleges including the likes of Princeton, Harvard, and Yale universities have all firmly encouraged students to participate in gap years. Princeton has expanded its in-house gap year program from 20 to 100 students annually performing a year of service work abroad. Another elite school, Harvard has encouraged gap years for over thirty years, and, alongside other elite schools are now asking students shortly after their acceptance whether they want to defer and take a gap year prior to beginning their studies.

Gap years are increasing in popularity at such a fast rate that other groups of colleges are starting to catch on and making their own programs for their students. Colleges including Tufts and University of North Carolina have started their own gap year programs which offer to admit students. With popularity for a gap year rising every year within students and parents alike, there is a huge chance that we’ll gap years normalised, and even potentially considered a requirement for some colleges after high school.

While the thought of a gap year is still terrifying to some parents, there’s no doubt that the pressure of what happens during high-school, and of course what comes after high-school is more prominent now than ever before. Rules are stricter, work-loads are increasing and students are becoming more driven each day, but is a gap year the cost of working harder? Arguably for some families, the answer would be yes. However, taking time to consider all your options before progressing in education and career only lead to a positive outcome regardless of which path an individual may take.


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