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Taking a Gap Year: What Does the Research Say?

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Young man jumping over marshy stream in mountainous hike

Photo by Christina Rivera Cogswell, Princeton Bridge Year, Ladakh India.

Research has shown that students who take a gap year often report higher levels of personal growth, increased maturity, and improved decision-making skills. They may also have a better understanding of their academic and career goals, and are often more motivated to succeed in their studies when they return to school. Taking a gap year before college or university won’t affect your admission chances if you use your time and experience wisely.

Why Take a Gap Year? 

Traveling and living abroad, immersing yourself in a different culture, learning a new language, and seeing the world from a different perspective is a transformative experience that can help you discover your passions and purpose and also help better prepare you for the next phase of academics. A whopping 96% of folks believe taking a gap year helped improve their self-confidence, something that benefits their academic and professional pursuits, and also their mental health and wellbeing.

Statistics show that a main reason students decide to take a gap year is to become more independent. 80% of those who took a gap year say that the skills they acquired during their year away from formal classroom education will help them to become more successful in their future careers. It’s also been found that 66% of folks who took a gap year also took their studies more seriously after spending a year away. 

Here are some common reasons why students consider taking a gap year:

  • Hands-on life experience and exposure to different worldviews
  • Relief from the pressures of school studies
  • Discover themselves, their interests and hone in on a career path
  • Gain language fluency via cultural immersion
  • Try something new and challenging and build meaningful relationships
  • Slow down and find time for personal reflection
  • Adventure in the wilderness, travel to and explore new environments 

While research suggests gap years can be beneficial for students, it’s important to carefully consider if this is the right choice for you. Factors like financial considerations, academic goals, and personal circumstances should all be taken into account when deciding whether a gap year is the right choice.

What Does the Research Say About Gap Years? 

Gap years, which are typically a break in education between high school and college or during college, have become increasingly popular in recent years. Students seek opportunities to gain life experience, explore their interests, and prepare for their future careers, and there has been some research done on the impact on students taking gap years. According to a survey conducted by the Gap Year Association, around 40,000 to 50,000 students take a gap year in the United States each year.

Research shows that students who take a gap year graduate with higher GPAs than their peers and are more satisfied with their careers. 

  • 98% of colleges and universities accept deferrals for planned gap years. Harvard, Princeton, University of North Carolina and Colorado College to name a few, encourage it because students enter more focused, mature, and passionate.
  • A majority of students now take five or more years to complete their college education, while a majority of gap year students graduate in four years. 
  • Gap years are serious endeavors and it’s often the most ambitious, curious, and motivated students that are called to them. 
  • A quality gap year program is experiential and students can gain clarity on who they are, what they believe in, and what they’re capable of achieving.
  • More than 90% of students who do a structured gap year program enroll in university within one year of their time-off. 
  • When researchers tried to identify factors that distinguished facilitated programs from unstructured time-off, they discovered a homestay experience in another culture and excellent mentorship were two factors critical to making the gap year a transformative experience.

Want to learn more about Dragons Gap Year programs or connect with other students who’ve done them? If you’d like to speak to alumni, please give us a call at 800.982.9203 or contact us, and we’ll put you in touch. 


Here’s a PDF version of Dragons Position Paper on Why Take a Gap Year? that’s printer-friendly if needed.

All Position Papers

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