Facts & Figures
As reported by the American GAP Association, there is a positive return on investment for gap year participation:
- 90% graduate from a 4-year institution as compared to the overall United States graduation rate of 60%.
- 85% had a B average or better and 55% had an A- average or better.
- On average, gap-year participants graduate from college in 4.07 years compared to most public universities where only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.
- Even at state flagship universities — selective, research-intensive institutions — only 36 percent of full-time students complete their bachelor’s degree on time.
- 77% agreed or strongly agreed that their gap year helped them find purpose in their life.
- 86% of gap-year participants were satisfied with their job after college.
- 84% agreed or strongly agreed that their gap year helped them acquire skills for success in their career.
Gap Year Q&A
What is a gap year?
A gap year is an experiential semester or year, typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional and personal awareness. For those considering a gap year, Valor encourages them to intentionally create or identify a defined plan including objectives and timeline.
Is a gap year a new concept?
For generations, students have taken time off between high school and college to earn money for college tuition. Students have also taken time off to support political campaigns, earn vocational certificates or pursue an athletic or artistic opportunity.
For nearly 40 years, Harvard has recommended this option, indeed proposing it in the letter of admission. Gap years gained prominence in 2016 when Malia Obama announced that she was going to take a gap year before enrolling in Harvard the following year. In recent years, the presence of formalized gap-year programs has expanded substantially in the US.
Do students typically go to college after a gap year?
There is no mechanism to track all students that participate in both informal and formal gap years. One association that surveyed its members, which are a subset of the total gap-year population, claimed that 90% of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year. This is a great question to pose to any gap-year program that you are exploring.
Why do students participate in a gap year?
The following chart by Nina Hoe, PhD, in collaboration with the Institute for Survey Research, Temple University, and the AGA Research Committee, details what their respondents (participants of AGA certified gap-year programs) cited as their most significant influences when deciding to take a gap year.
What are the outcomes associated with a gap year?
Some of the self-reported gap-ear impacts include:
- Helped me develop as a person
- Allowed me time for personal reflection
- Increased my maturity
- Increased my self confidence
- Helped me learn to interact with people from backgrounds different than my own
- Helped me develop communication skills
- Helped me learn to interact with people from backgrounds different than my own
- Helped me acquire skills to be successful in my career
- Helped me find purpose in my life
- Will or has impacted my career decision
- Increased my readiness for college
How does a gap year impact students interests and academic results?
It’s proven that taking time off between high school and college can also support academic achievement. Reports show that students who have taken a gap year are more likely to graduate on time and with a higher grade point average.
How much do gap years cost?
There is a wide range of costs associated with organized gap-year programs. Such program costs are typically correlated with the breadth and location of travel and can equal a year’s college tuition.
Inversely, there are programs where participants can earn a modest amount of money. Of course, some individuals create their own gap-year program and thus dictate financial commitments based on the components of their program.
Are there scholarships for gap years?
A variety of scholarships can be found at the American Gap Year Association’s website. In addition, many gap-year programs offer financial aid and/or scholarships for their participants.
Gap-year expenses associated with some 501c organizations are deductible and 529 college funds can be applied to select gap-year programs offered through an eligible post-secondary education institute. Lastly, there are a few programs, such as Americorps, that allow participants to earn money for college.
Will the college that I am attending now allow me to take a gap year?
The direct guidance that is provided by the Gap Year Association is as follows:
- Apply to college
- Inquire with your admissions counselor about a gap year. This is a hypothetical question to be asked, and will give you more information about the specific school without saying you’ll throw off their admissions numbers.
- Get accepted (knock on wood) and pay the deposit to hold your space depending on the above answer. DO NOT compromise your integrity and deposit at two colleges or otherwise be dishonest — this will inevitably come back to haunt you.
- Ask for a “deferral.” More and more universities are adopting a formal policy around deferrals as they’re seeing more students ask for these. In some cases, deferrals are specifically to take a gap year — and we always encourage announcing those plans clearly and honestly — but in other cases, students are simply looking to take the time to work and earn a bit of money for college. For more information on deferrals, visit AGA’s list of university deferral policies for gap years.
Some colleges, such as Colorado College, have specifically developed calendars and onboarding programs for gap-year participants. According to gap-year consultant, Marion Taylor, most Colorado colleges allow gap-year deferments, while other programs such as The University of Washington and Northern Arizona University are less likely to provide deferments for gap-year students.
How do colleges perceive gap-year participants?
Colleges are increasingly embracing the concept of gap years. In fact, universities such as Princeton, Wheaton, and the University of North Carolina are offering their own gap-year programs as well as providing financial support.
As Northwestern University points out, “Studies have found that students who take a gap year are more motivated and better at planning and task management than their peers. ‘You want to have students who come into your institution ready to take advantage of all that you have to offer,’ says Lois Trautvetter, an associate professor and director of Northwestern’s master’s program in Higher Education Administration and Policy. ‘So, if it’s a matter of having some students take a gap year to ready themselves, I think any institution should be amenable to that.’”
According to the US News and World Report, “Sometimes students who were snubbed by an elite school will get accepted after doing something impressive during a gap year.
For instance, a student who was rejected by MIT used a gap year to invent an environmentally friendly scooter that Popular Science praised. The second time he applied to MIT, he got in.
Harvard offered this take on admission chances for gap-year applicants on its website: ‘Occasionally students are admitted to Harvard or other colleges in part because they accomplished something unusual during a year off. While no one should take a year off simply to gain admission to a college, time away almost never makes one a less desirable candidate or less well-prepared for college.’”
What are some of the potential concerns associated with gap-year programs?
Some of the concerns or questions that should be explored with gap-year grads and programs include:
- Being one year behind high school friends in college
- Transferability of academic course work
- Re-immersion into college and/or domestic life after living in different cultures
- Risks and language barriers associated with global travel
- Living with others, either in residency programs or home stays
- The need to be flexible, patient and a problem solver as challenges or changes occur while traveling or working with others
- Finding the right program that will advance personal objectives or interests
Does Valor encourage gap-year participation?
Valor Christian High School supports and encourages participation in gap-year programs. It is our belief that gap years can prepare students to deliberately immerse themselves in their college experience to realize their passions more fully, advance their careers and contribute to their communities after graduation.
Website & Articles
- Gap Year Association »
- US Gap Year Fairs »
- Harvard University »
- Money Magazine: How a Gap Year Can Pay Off After College »
- New York Times: How Taking a Gap Year Can Shape Your Life »
- US News & World Report: How A Gap Year Can Make Students Successful »
- US Gap Year Matching Tool »