1 in 5 Millennials Think a Gap Year Will Set Them Back in Their Career

gap year

Over 80% of millennials in the US have thought about taking a gap year, yet very few do. Gap years are the norm for lots of millennials around the world. However, the concept of setting time aside for travel after graduation, or even between jobs, is not as popular among Americans. Topdeck Travel decided to dig deeper and conduct a research study to get a better understanding of why so few Americans choose not to take a gap year. Even though nearly a quarter (22%) of Millennials think that a gap year is an experience everyone should have, far less than that will take a gap year during their life. So, where’s the disconnect?

gap year

Before we dive into the findings, let’s clarify what a gap year is. A gap year is a semester or year “off” that is traditionally described as a break from academics. While there is no age limit for taking a gap year, it is usually done between the end of high school and the start of college, or after graduating from university before graduate school or starting a career. Typically, individuals will seek an experience abroad or may simply want travel and see the world.

Why Take a Gap Year? 

There are many reasons to take a gap year that go far above and beyond what some might imagine as a year to relax and ponder life in mom and dad’s basement. Some of the reasons that motivate people to take a gap year include: gaining life experience, having the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures, explore study options, volunteer, explore career options, learn another language, and decide what their next step in life will be.

Yet despite the advantages to taking a gap year only …

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Gap years can open Millennials up to the many career paths out there that incorporate travel like being a tour guide, working in travel industry jobs, or finding a company that provides their employees with travel opportunities.

Millennials’ Misconceptions About Gap Years Are the Biggest Barrier to Taking One

There are many misconceptions about what a gap year is, what it means if you take one, and what type of people take them.

Gap years are only for people with lots of money. They are only for people with lots of free time. Gap years are a waste of time. They are only for people who don’t know what they want to do. People who take gap years end up as underpaid barista living in their parent’s basement. These are some of the stereotypical comment you can expect to hear when speaking to people about gap years. Topdeck Travel found that these sentiments are felt by many millennials.

These are some common comment you can expect to hear when speaking to people about gap years. Topdeck Travel found that many millennials feel this way.

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What people get out of gap years may make them well worth the cost. Taking longer to graduate, changing majors, or even changing schools in the middle of a program – all that is potentially much more expensive than figuring out what you want to do in advance on your gap year.

Millennials Worry How Taking a Gap Year Will Affect Their Career

Research found that one that one of the biggest reasons that millennials choose not to take a gap year is because of how they think will affect their career.

The study found that 1 in 5 believe that taking a gap year will set them back in their careers.  Many millennials are making their careers a priority but they might be forgetting some important benefits of travel. These benefits include being more culturally aware, improving communication skills and feeling more independent after navigating unfamiliar places.

Only 14% of millennials think that employers value someone that is well travelled. 


21% of millennials think it will be harder to find a job upon returning from a gap year between college and starting a career.


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The minority of Millennials that think taking a gap year will help them on a professional level might be correct about the correlation between taking a gap year and career success!

Fear as a Barrier to Taking a Gap Year

Fear plays a large role in stopping people from taking a gap year. Joe Ponte, General Manager at Topdeck Travel says “The research shows that many American Millennials are giving gap years a one-sided look and ignoring the solutions, like group travel, which will give them a built-in community and local trip leader to steer them away from any unfamiliar situations. Gap years aren’t as black and white as Millennials might assume.”

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In addition to worrying about their safety, 18% are nervous about feeling lonely while travelling alone during their gap yearBy going on a group trip during your gap year with a company like Topdeck, you can choose the trip length and style that’s best for you. You surround yourself with like-minded travellers and have a local trip leader showing you the ropes.

Another fear keeping some Millennials from taking a gap year is the fear of what others might think. The research found what family and friends will think about them taking a gap year concerns 1 in 7 millennials.

About the Research and Topdeck Travel

Topdeck provides organized group trips for youth aged 18-30. Since 1973, Topdeck has grown to offer a large variety of planned trips. Destinations include Europe, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Topdeckers from around the world enjoy a travel experience led by fun, knowledgeable trip leaders.

Topdeck Travel commissioned YouGov PLC to poll the views of a representative sample of 4,515 adults, of which 1,090 were Millennials (aged 18-34). Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th – 30th June 2017.  The survey was done online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+). All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.

Share Your Experience

Have you taken a gap year? Was it a great experience or something you regretted doing? Do you feel like it better prepared you for your future career? Let me know in the comments!



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