Gap years amid the global pandemic

Posted September 02, 2020 by

For college students, one result of this year’s pandemic has been the increased interest in gap years. A gap year is typically a 12-month break from schooling, where a college student or graduate instead travels, interns, or volunteers. This break can be taken between high school and college, after college or grad school, or between undergraduate semesters.

Gap years have gained more momentum during the COVID-19 crisis as more universities move to online course instruction. To better understand students’ thoughts on gap years, College Finance conducted a study of 1,027 college students, graduates, and hiring managers to find out their views on the subject.

Let’s take a look at what they found.

How COVID-19 changed views on gap years

Prior to COVID-19, 20% of students surveyed intended to take a gap year at some point in time. Of these students, 27% expected to take this gap year following high school graduation, 23% upon college graduation, and 7% during college.

However, amid the global pandemic, these numbers changed significantly. Now, nearly half (46%) of all college students surveyed intend to take a gap year at some point. Most of these students intend to take the gap year now (during the coronavirus), 11.4% haven’t decided on a date, and 10% intend to take this break after college graduation.

Funding gap years

One major question anyone considering a gap year must answer is how this time “off” will be funded. The largest group (64.9%) intend to work or have a paid internship to help fund their time off, followed by 51.4% who intend to work and save money before their gap year, and 43.2% who intend to use family support to fund this time.

How many graduates actually took gap years?

While many students intend to take gap years, that doesn’t mean they’ll all get the opportunity. This survey reviewed answers from 600 graduate students, and 40.4% never took a gap year. Of those students, nearly 60% reported not regretting skipping out on this time. On top of this, graduates who didn’t take time off were more likely to report feeling satisfied with their college experience.

Of those graduates who did take a gap year, 58.6% funded their year by working or interning, 48.8% relied on family support, and 35.4% saved money in advance of their gap year. More than half of these graduates reported gaining work experience as their top gap year activity, and they were least likely to regret their time spent volunteering.

Do gap years impact hireability?

You might think that gap years may stand out as giant red flags on resumes, but sometimes this time off can impress hiring managers, especially during the pandemic. Sixty-seven percent of the hiring managers surveyed thought it would be beneficial for college students and recent graduates to take a gap year during the global pandemic. Approximately 80% of hiring managers saw gap years as beneficial for personal growth.

In addition, 70% of hiring managers believed interning to be the most productive and beneficial activity students and graduates could take on during a gap year.

The bottom line

Gap years can offer students and recent graduates a break from the rigors of schooling and allow them to have new experiences, explore new cultures, and gain valuable work skills. Amid the pandemic, the desire for gap years is increasing. On the other hand, 61.7% of college students believe staying enrolled in school (rather than taking a gap year) would be more beneficial for their mental health.

Every student must deal with the coronavirus differently – while some may take a much-needed break in the form of a gap year, others might feel more comfortable sticking to familiar college routines. What’s important is that the changing landscape paved by the pandemic can be traversed successfully when students make the wisest choice for themselves.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in Career Advice for Job Seekers | Tagged