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Research Finds That Gap Year Is Beneficial For Long-Term

Research Finds That Gap Year Is Beneficial For Long-Term

What Is A Gap Year?

In college terms, a gap year is a length of time (usually a year) away from schooling after high school to find purpose, work, or even volunteer, instead of pursuing college immediately. Many students have even traveled for their gap year, allowing them to experience more of the world before being confined to the endless pages of school textbooks. More and more research is conducted relating to the idea behind the gap year to see how it is helping soon to be college bound students develop.

Based on the research found from the American Gap Association, a non-profit organization in charge of handling the data for gap year students, students who had pursued the gap year in 2012 and 2013 were more likely to graduate with a higher grade point average than traditional students. This research was done in both the United States and the United Kingdom. It also suggested that even students who were not very academic in high school would go on to be some of these students who held higher grade point averages upon completion of college. From 2012-2013, gap year students rose 27%.

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Now Gap Year Students Are Being Noticed

A handful of universities have taken notice to the recent increasing amount of students participating in gap years and offering a portion of their financial aid to help still be admitted into college after a year with schooling. Usually, a student would take the proper tests and be a part of the proper process to go accept a college’s offer as they leave high school, but a few colleges are more than willing to work with students who found their purpose through the beneficial gap year.

The University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the colleges participating in helping gap year students. The school has developed the Global Gap Year Fellowship to grant $7,500 dollars for a student to develop their own beneficial way to spend their gap year instead of school.

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How Gap Years Help Students

Besides helping to relieve the burnout feeling that many students have upon exiting high school, a gap year also offers more than that for students. It offers an individual a year to hone in on what really interests them, instead of being shackled and restrained by lesson plans and lectures.

The American Gap Association validates that many students who take gap years do so to fix the issue of academic burnout and have a desire for increased self-awareness. Harvard University — one of the top universities in the nation — fully supports the idea of a gap year, concluding that there is a lot of pressure placed on students in the middle/high school fast track. Harvard’s academic admission officers are “concerned that the pressures on today’s students seem far more intense than those placed on previous generations.” Thus they make sure to note that Harvard has been advising for students to potentially have a gap year for 40 years, and that about 80 out of 110 students will defer college for another year. Students at Harvard in 2000 that took advantage of the gap year would advise every student to do it.

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Studies in both Finland and Australia have noted that students don’t perform any worse for taking a year off or going immediately to college. Not that they were outperforming each other, but it’s humble research like this that shows that students will do just fine in taking a year to find themselves before college.

Conclusion

It should not be taken lightly that universities around the nation are beginning to look at ways to make gap years affordable for their prospective students. From talking with students who have had the opportunity, they absolutely agree it was necessary to finding their own balance in school and achieving what they wanted. Even Malia Obama is deciding to take a year off of school before attending Harvard in 2017.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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