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8 Incredible Gap Year Statistics That Prove the Doubters Wrong

By Mark Clarkson
In Volunteering Advice
Nov 14th, 2013

Disapproval Face | Gap Year Statistics

Gap years have become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades, with many students opting to postpone college for a few semesters, stretch their wings and experience learning outside of the education system through a variety of exciting gap adventures.

The Rise of the Gap Year in America

It’s now estimated that annually 8,000 U.S. students take a gap year – a figure that’s been growing rapidly over recent years with educators recognising the benefits of structured time spent out of the classroom, and support from parents growing. Gap year organisations in the UK, where the practice of structured gap years is widespread, are noticing higher numbers of participants from the USA using their services recently.

In 2012,’s sister company and gap year travel specialists The Leap – an industry leader – received a bigger proportion of American volunteers than ever before.

Struggling to Decide?

It’s very clear to me just how daunting a decision to leave home for a whole year must be. If you’re umming and arring about whether to embark on a year out, you’re going to find the following facts and figures very interesting indeed. With any luck, they’ll go some way to setting your mind at ease.

An estimated 1.6 million students volunteer during their gap year, with many partaking in programs with a gap year organisation. Quality of these programmes varies wildly, so it’s always best to follow recommendations. Start with the list of organisations approved by the Year Out Group (YOG) or American Gap Association (AGA).

And Now, The Statistics…

It’s what you’re here for, after all. Right?

Amazing Fact #1: In 2012/2013 South America was the most popular gap year traveller’s destination. [Tweet this]

Yep, that’s right. 2012/13 was the year that South America finally became more popular than previous favourite Southeast Asia. In fact, our friends The Leap tell us their biggest teams each year head to Ecuador, closely followed by Venezuela and Costa Rica.

Amazing Fact #2: American universities say that students who took a gap year achieve 2.3% higher grades than students who went straight to college. [Tweet this]

Hard to believe, right? Studies actually suggest that taking it easy for a while after high school will aid academic performance in the long run. Perhaps the following is an indication as to why…

Amazing Fact #3: 60% of gap year students said that they took their academics more seriously after taking a year out from education. [Tweet this]

…and if that wasn’t enough…

Amazing Fact #4: 60% of gap year students said that a year out helped them decide their major and realise their future career direction. [Tweet this]


Amazing Fact #5: 90% of students who take a gap year return to college within a year. [Tweet this]

Conclusive evidence, then, that having an awesome time after high school doesn’t make you a dropout. In fact, it will improve your focus when you return to education and help you better understand what you might like to study. Better yet, it’s also highly likely to improve your grades.

So, if you find yourself having conversations with your parents that sound a lot like this classic scene from The Graduate

…make sure you remind them of the reality. And it gets better, because there’s even evidence that the positive effects will stretch way beyond college graduation:

Amazing Fact #6: 88% of people who took a year out said that they thought their gap year added to their employability. [Tweet this]

A lot of gap year students we’ve met in the past have expressed concerns about the mix of boys and girls should they choose to volunteer as part of a gap year program. Well it’s good news all round, as the balance is normally very even. Although some boys will be pleased to hear that, on average…

Amazing Fact #7: Volunteers are more likely to be women than men, 70% being aged between 20-25. [Tweet this]

And finally, for those considering flying solo – a word of advice…

Amazing Fact #8: Only 30% of gap year students choose to travel alone. [Tweet this]

To put it another way, an overwhelming 70% of gappers decided to travel in a group, and the majority of those enrolling in a program offered by an approved gap year organisation. If you’re new to travelling outside of the States, it’s always more sensible and safer to use the services of a recommended, reputable gap year organisation. That way, you’ll know that your destination and activities have been well researched, are expertly led and are conducted in accordance with the highest safety standards.

Over to You

Were these gap year statistics helpful? Anyone planning to use them to prove to their parents why a 12-month break from school is the best idea ever? Tell us all about it in the comments below!



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