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Gen Z and the Gap Year Movement

From lifestyle preferences to media consumption, there are countless differences among Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z. But when it comes to education, the newest generation has pioneered a new movement that is changing the way young people think about their futures. That movement is Gap Year.

In building our Gap Year program at The School of The New York Times, including the recently launched Gap Summer, we wanted to get a better understanding of what Gen Z-ers are looking for in a gap experience and what they hope to accomplish by forging their own path to education. Here are our findings and the insights we’ve collected from experts in the field.

What is it about Gen Z?

As the newest generation, born between 1995 and 2010 and now reaching college age, Gen Z-ers have become the focus of multiple studies across many fields; from travel companies to financial and educational institutions, everyone wants to understand this demographic and how they differ from their predecessors. So what are some distinctive features of the latest cohort? Gen Z-ers have been found to be particularly debt-averse as well as socially conscious and aware of the world; they seek out knowledge through travel and hands-on learning; they are more interested in acquiring authentic experiences – and expressing their individuality – than accumulating material possessions. With the wide scope of information available to them online, reports McKinsey & Company, Gen Z-ers are a lot more pragmatic and thoughtful about making decisions than previous generations, a stark contrast to Millennials who were much more willing to jump into things. As a result, the popularity of a gap year — taking time after high school to explore and learn before pursuing college or a career path — is rising around the world.

The New Norm

revealed that more than 35% of high school seniors are now considering taking a gap year. One of the most obvious reasons for this is that Gen Z-ers are very aware and mindful of the rising cost of education, but that’s only part of the picture. Ethan Knight, Executive Director of the Gap Year Association, attributes this rise in numbers to several additional reasons, repeatedly cited by the many reports on the topic. Burnout from the process — and the competitive pressure of getting into college — is one of the top deterrents. The quest for knowledge — both of oneself and the world — is another. At the core, as Knight expressed, what we see is an empathetic response to a world that “looks larger, more daunting and harder to find a person’s place in.” Thanks to travel and greater access to information, Gen Z-ers are significantly more aware about the world and its problems than their predecessors, and are therefore mobilizing around global issues and exploring what they can do to offer solutions. As a result, says Knight, “a gap year rooted in experiential learning” is quickly becoming a popular alternative to a straight path to college post high school graduation.

Given the Gen Z tendency for pragmatic decision-making, entering a gap year program before committing to a college degree gives youth a “sorting hat” to understand and try out different options first.

 

2020欧洲杯客户端下载A gap year rooted in experiential learning is quickly becoming a popular alternative to a straight path to college post high school graduation.

 

The Options

2020欧洲杯客户端下载Once a high school senior decides to take a gap year post graduation, there are several available routes to take, all rooted in hands-on learning and experience. In the gap year programs offered at The School of the New York Times, for instance, the focus is on getting out of the classroom and exploring major themes through a Timesian lens. Each module corresponds to a section of the newspaper, such as Business, Politics, World, Art, Food, Sports, and uses the people and places of New York City to explore current events and topical issues of our time. “Students become immersed in the cultural setting and the multitude of global perspectives in the city, and get to have a taste of what a particular career option might look like in the day-to-day,” says Dr. Meghan Groome, Director of Pre-College Programs at The School.

Another popular gap year option is international travel. But it’s not just tourism that Gen Z-ers are interested in pursuing. As Laura Brown, Director of Strategy at Lonely Planet, explains, Gen Z-ers are particularly interested in travel, which allows them to be immersed in a culture, enough to understand it and learn from it. This generation is “more likely to have booked a trip with personal growth as the main aim, and is more likely to view travel as an opportunity for personal growth,” adds Ellie Simpson, the Global Lead in Audience & Growth Research at Lonely Planet. Travel then, for the newest generation, becomes a way to broaden their perspective of the world and its challenges and to understand how they can contribute to formulating the solutions. And because of their acute awareness of global warming as well as other perils facing the earth, Gen Z-ers taking a travel gap year program are particularly attentive to avoiding “overtourism” and opting for sustainable travel instead.

 

Once they enter college, gap year alumni outperform those without a gap year experience.

 

The Benefits

With access to more information on Gen Z-ers and their life path, the numbers are clearly pointing out that the advantages of taking a gap year are numerous. As Ethan Knight notes, data collected by the Gap Year Association shows that a staggering 90% of gap year alumni go on to pursue a college degree within a year of completing their chosen gap year experience. But, perhaps more importantly, the statistics also show that once they enter college, gap year alumni outperform those without a gap year experience; their GPA is higher and their time-to-graduation is shorter.

And the benefits continue post-graduation: those that take a gap year before pursuing a college degree are reported to have higher career satisfaction and be more civically engaged in the world.

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