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A recent Drexel study showed that students who take a gap year before college are less likely to graduate on time. | DP File Photo

Students who take time off between high school and college are less likely to graduate on time, according to a recent Drexel study.

The study, which followed the paths of more than 9,000 Philadelphia high school students over 12 years, found that delayed enrollment after graduation dropped the graduation rate from 46 to 15 percent. Although the success rate was higher at private, four-year institutions like Penn, students in the study with delayed enrollment still struggled compared to their peers.

Many students at Penn take voluntary gap years to travel or participate in an alternative program, but some may find themselves delaying entrance to college unwillingly. While the return to an academic lifestyle may be difficult, jobs or volunteer work done during their time away from school can help students once they reach college.

“I think it would depend on what was going on during [a gap] year,” said Myrna Cohen, Executive Director of the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. “Time management could be a challenge, but if the student was working during that year they would have to have an alarm clock and fit to a schedule, and that actually might have been a learning experience that would play into better time management skills.”

The Weingarten Center offers several resources for students entering Penn — including students who have taken gap years — such as group workshops and meetings with individual learning instructors. And some students find that after they take gap years, they are better equipped for some aspects of college life.

“To an extent, I think I had a leg up; I had already grown accustomed to living on my own during my gap year,” College junior Talia Beck said. Beck deferred enrollment for a year to study and volunteer in Israel through the Jewish college leadership program Nativ.

“In high school … I had a lot of both academic and extracurricular work to handle, and I just kind of wanted to do something different,” she said.

Engineering junior Rachel Shaw, who also took a gap year in Israel to study and do volunteer work, had similarly positive thoughts on her year away from school.

“It let me have the first-year-away-from-home experience … in a lower-stress, more-freedom environment, I think,” she said. “Yes, I had classes, I had responsibilities, but it was also — I had a ton of time to sit and talk with these people that were very, very different than I was.”

Both Beck and Shaw said that they experienced some difficulty upon entering Penn and returning to the academic lifestyle, but not more than their peers.

“I’m not sure that, academically, the shock was anything more than it would have been otherwise,” Shaw said. “I think I still would have been slammed the first semester.”

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