Gap year programs are fast becoming a popular choice for young people who are still trying to figure out their next steps in life. These programs have been on the rise for some time, but the forced hiatus that the pandemic created for many graduating high school seniors brought new attention to these types of programs. However, certain stigmas still exist for gap year programs and that is going to challenge your recruiting process. This is one of the reasons that the American Gap Association sponsored a comprehensive study that helps to shed light on the value of such programs.
Here are some of the common misconceptions that people have and the research that helps address them. Learning to communicate these truths can significantly boost your recruitment.
“Gap year programs discourage students from going to college”
One of the most potent fears that parents have regarding gap year programs is that they will discourage students from eventually going to college. This study showed that only 45% of high school students feel prepared for college. When students who took a gap year were surveyed, that number increased to 73%. A further 57% said they had greater clarity on what major to pursue once they went to college. Considering the substantial drop out rate that many college students face, beginning that step in life feeling better prepared can make a big difference in their own collegiate success.
These revelations can help you position your gap year program as a tool that increases a student’s future college success. Rather than distracting from or replacing high education, gap year programs increase the likelihood that a student will attend and complete college.
“It feels like students are quitting school when they go to a gap year program. Doesn’t that mean they will quit college, if they ever end up going?”
Many wonder if your gap year program will end up supporting a young person’s doubts about finishing college, if they ever end up going? This same study show that gap year students have shorter times to graduation and higher GPA’s than the average college student. So while it takes them an extra semester or year to get to college, once they get there, they finish faster and with better grades than most of their peers.
You can further strengthen this argument by offering credit for your gap year program. This helps to boost the idea that time with you is not time lost at college, and it can save them future tuition that will likely be multiple times more expensive. Learn more about how your gap year program can start offering credit, here.
“School is where they need to be if they want a job in the future.”
School is an important part of every young person’s life. A good education can prepare them for a host of career options and ensure that they are healthy participants in society. But the same American Gap Association study shows that gap year programs, which tend to be more experiential in nature, do better at preparing young people with the soft skills they need to get a job and to enjoy it. Plus, these programs tend to encourage lifelong engagement in various civic activities, as well. Gap year students are happier workers who are more involved in their community! That is a winning message. High job satisfaction means these students are less likely to have to return to school to retool for a different career later on. That means big savings in money and time.
“They will regret this decision once they see all their friends go to college.”
Society expects that most students will graduate high school and then go to college. So when a student begins to think about going to a gap year program, they will face many dissenting opinions. How do you assure them that they are making the right decision? Well, let them hear the voices of 85% of gap year students who say they would recommend taking a gap year to a friend or colleague. Another 11% of those surveyed were neutral or passive in their answers with only 4% saying they regretted the decision. That is as close to unanimous as the world of surveying ever really gets!
“This will slow them down and stall out the beginning of their lives.”
Time is another major concern for people when they consider a gap year program. But this concern wanes once you compare college graduation times. Currently, less than half of college students graduate within four years. This is often due to factors like changing majors, transferring schools, or having to repeat classes. But gap year students tend to be more grounded and prepared once they go to college. Plus, with a year of experiential learning under their belts, they have a clearer idea of what they want to major in. According to this study, these factors and others result in an average time to graduation for gap year students of only 4 years. So rather than wasting time, joining a gap year program can accelerate their graduation time in college (and that saves money, too). When gap year students can earn up to a full year of college credit in your program, that acceleration multiplies.
Knowing that many potential gap year students will face a chorus of dissenting opinions, it can be especially helpful to help them hear these other voices. Whether you share testimonies, research, or something else, they will need to be reassured that they are not alone in their desire to spend a gap year with you.
For over twenty years, Eleven:6 has been helping ministry leaders launch immersive training programs that can also earn students credit towards a degree. If you are thinking about this upgrade to your program or ministry, then schedule a call with us, today.