The Malia Effect: Booking.com Reveals a Third of U.S. Students are Considering a Gap Year Before College
A recent survey announced today from Booking.com, the global leader in connecting travelers with the widest choice of incredible places to stay, reveals a third of U.S. students, aged 16 to 18, are considering taking a gap year in between high school and college, following in the footsteps of one of the nation’s most admired teenagers, Malia Obama, who decided to take a gap year before starting Harvard in 2017.
A growing trend among U.S. students is to take a year off to travel after high school rather than waiting until they have finished college. Over half of those surveyed (58%) know of at least one person intending to take a gap year in the future.
Whether they had been accepted to college or not, nearly half of those surveyed said the main reason they are considering a gap year at this point in their lives is to figure out what they want to study (46%) and to gain life experience (46%).
It seems girls are more likely to see a gap year as a great opportunity to work and save money (62% vs. boys 55%) and 18 year olds are most likely to take a gap year in order to gain life experience (50%), but 45 percent also said that they would like a gap year in order to figure out what they want to study in college.
The students selected Europe as the most popular choice of destination (57%) followed by the USA (32%) and Asia (30%). If they were going to travel, visiting cities is the first choice across all age groups and genders (72%), followed by beaches (52%) and mountains (22%).
Overall, students feel that taking a gap year would give them time to consider their career goals (68%) and develop professional skills (56%), and almost a third (28%) consider taking a gap year to gain real life experience. For many young people, gap years allow headspace to gain real clarity on their future and the survey shows that the majority of students have their resume at the front of their mind when they make the decision to take a year out.
The trend for taking a gap year before college or university is one that’s been around for many years in European countries and is so well engrained in society that it’s considered an asset to potential employers. Booking.com’s recent research in the UK**, where it questioned those responsible for hiring staff, revealed that two-in-five (39%) think that life experience – such as a gap year – sets applicants apart from their competitors. The most appealing type of gap year for an applicant to have taken would be professional or with relevant work experience, with 72 percent agreeing. However, over one-in-three would still consider someone who had travelled for pleasure during their gap year to be appealing as a candidate. And interestingly, one-in-three recruiters (32%) would choose an applicant with a relevant gap year but fewer relevant qualifications over an applicant without a gap year but with all the relevant qualifications.
Todd Dunlap, Managing Director, Americas from Booking.com commented: “As our young people are becoming more globally minded it’s interesting to see how this impacts their travel decisions. Whether they want to take time out to consider their future, travel and see the world or take on specific work experience, the research shows it is going to enhance their career long term. There are so many unique opportunities available all over the world, from structured gap year programs, volunteering or simply traveling the world, all of which will inevitably shape your personal growth and in turn enrich your career path.”
*Booking.com polled 250 male and female US students aged 16-18 in June 2016
**Booking.com polled 200 employment decision makers in June 2016