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Recent studies gathered by the American Gap Association show that taking a gap year can improve grade point averages for returning students and solidify academic major and career choices. A 2011 study at Middlebury College, conducted by its former dean of admissions Robert Clagett, found that students who had taken a year off had consistently higher GPAs than those who didn’t. How can a gap year actually improve a student’s study skills and academic performance?

Developing practical and applicable skills.

Structure and problem-solving are just two of the many skills necessary for developing good study habits. Whether it be navigating a map or building homes for communities, when a student chooses a structured gap year they will use these skills along with time management, effective communication, and critical-thinking throughout the program. Many gap year students will also be volunteering and working during their gap year program, which also requires good time management, organization, and problem-solving. These tasks will help improve their discipline, attention to detail, and study skills over time before entering college.

A sense of purpose and focus.

Academic burnout is one of the two reasons students consider taking gap years. According to a new survey of 300 gap-year alumni, many high school students say they chose a gap year because they needed a break from studying. After taking a gap year, students say they have a greater sense of purpose in their studies and their career choice. Taking a gap year exposes students to new experiences, new cultures, and new environments, thus giving them a better view of the world and what career choice and educational path they want to pursue. With a sense of purpose, students admit they study more and study harder with career focus.

Maturity and self-awareness.

In a recent article, Samantha Krieg’s gap year experience was chronicled, "Her arrival in Florence, Italy began the worst day of her 18-year-old life — or that’s what she thought at the time. But now, Krieg appreciates her memories of not knowing how to get to her apartment and being lost for hours in a foreign city where she couldn’t understand the language. Figuring out how to solve her dilemma became a fitting start to the ‘gap year’ this New Jersey native spent between her high school graduation in 2012 and entrance to Georgetown University.” Upon returning from Italy, Kreig admittedly flourished once on campus.

Samantha’s experience is like many who choose to take a gap year abroad. These type of gap years force students to mature, learn the language, and become independent adults. They become aware of their surroundings, of the culture and the people, and of their own ability to solve problems on their own. All of these life experiences, again, lead to improved study skills and academic performance.

There are so many positive reasons why students should consider a gap year between high school and college. Developing practical life skills leads to improved study habits, a sense of true purpose, and  maturity.