Gap Years have numerous benefits, but typically the two most commonly cited reasons for taking a Gap Year are "a desire for increased self-awareness" and to address academic burnout. While much of the data currently cited is based on the UK and Australian models, pioneers in research such as Karl Haigler, Bob Clagett, and Nina Hoe, are now tracking in greater depth the objective benefits for US students taking a Gap Year. These benefits include things such as Paul Tough's work on non-cognitive educational value as predictors for success and the corollary results are proving quite impressive. Additional scholars' work that is being incorporated into the current research include Angela Duckworth, Ph.D. and Nobel Laureate James Heckman, Ph.D.

That being said, there are reams of anecdotal and qualitative data about the myriad benefits of Gap Years. Generally, these include: increased maturity, greater "ownership" of the student's education, increased self-awareness, greater global awareness, fluency in a foreign language, and of course the self-confidence earned from successfully completing a putative Rites of Passage through their Gap Year is consistently listed as one of the enduring benefits.

What is a Gap Year?

(noun) An experiential semester or year "on," typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.

nepalbackpacking - taking a gap yearStudents who decide to take a gap year benefit in countless ways from the experience. Research shows that it can be a life-changing experience like no other.

On an educational level, universities are reporting an increase in GPA, greater engagement in campus life, increased likelihood that students will graduate 'on time' or within four years, and of course greater clarity with career ambitions. Furthermore, students who take a Gap Year are 90% likely to return to university within one year: in essence, Gap Year graduates are MORE likely to attend university than their peers. Gap Year graduates report that through the summary of their new experiences they were better able to identify universities that fit their personalities and career ambitions. Finally, while we don't suggest this as a primary motivation, many students do report that taking a Gap Year enabled them to get into better universities.

On a personal level, students who have completed their Gap Years have reported being as much as 75% more likely to be "happy" or "extremely satisfied" with their careers post-university. On further examination the defining characteristic to their statements seems to be the sense of defining their own version of "success" that typically highly rates service and the commonality of mankind. 60% of Gap year graduates said the experience either "set me on my current career path/academic major" or "confirmed my choice of career/academic major", and 88% said that it added to their employability.

As for the social benefits, one of the most common things heard from Gap Year students is that they actually have something interesting to say . . . in other words, with such a packed year of life-experiences, there's simply much more to share, relate to, and communicate. These personal anecdotes can come out in conversation, in essays, in job applications, podcasts, etc.

Taking a Gap Year after completing high school is being stated as the newest strategy that is valued by college admissions counselors and showing strong correlation to higher education success for students - IF - you approach it with a purposeful plan.

Black Water Rafting Gap Year Study AbroadOne purpose in taking a gap year is to travel. The Washington Post posted an article, 10 Reasons You Should Take a Gap Year in their travel section. 
Another article by Student Universe, Top 10 Cheapest Countries to Backpack, has identified some great low cost destinations.

But besides traveling, what might be other purposes for taking a gap year?
1. Work in the family business.
2. Assist family/parents who are ill.
3. Earn money, hopefully in a job that will develop skills and knowledge.
4. Take courses at the local community college to expand your world.

For more data on taking a Gap Year.