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May 31, 2010 | by  | in News |
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To gap or not to gap

Gap-year students performing better at university: myth or reality?

Students trying to convince their parents they really need an overseas holiday just got some ammunition in their war, with a new study claiming a break will help them achieve better grades.

Research undertaken by the Ministry of Education found that students who took a year off before going to university managed a greater improvement in their marks compared to high school.

This improvement in grades was accounted for by the researchers. “The improvement in university performance for students who took a gap year probably derives from the fact that only motivated or confident students enrol in tertiary studies after taking a break.”

Students who took a gap year in the form of the popular ‘Overseas Experience’ (OE) agree with the results of the study.

“It’s simple. If you’re cut out for academic learning then you come back, but if you’re not keen then you don’t,” says third-year Psychology major Blaine Abraham.

“I found that by the end of my gap year I was really hungry to continue my education.”

21-year-old Alexander Handley says after his OE in South England, he was ready to go back to study.

“In terms of motivating me more, to a certain extent it did in providing a dream at the end of the tunnel,” Handley says.

“It was good to have a break and while it took me a while to get back into academic work, it definitely gave me a greater desire to learn.”

The question of whether it had improved his marks was also positive for Handley.

“I do think it has given me better marks than I would have got straight from school, because in my gap year I learned to balance all aspects of my life better,” he says.

“The chance for personal development in this is very high, so you don’t waste time sorting that stuff out in first year.”

However, students who did not do an OE do not agree.

Third-year student Robert Fernando feels that if he had taken a year off from subjects such as mathematics, he would have lost valuable knowledge.

“It’s different for each individual,” says Fernando.

“You can’t just say go on a gap year and get better marks.”

Receiving A plusses and As in his Psychology papers, Fernando doesn’t think a gap year is a necessity.

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