LOGAN, Utah (ABC4)– If you are a woman planning to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Utah Women and Leadership Project reports positive effects.
They released a study on Feb. 2, which found that taking gap time to serve a mission improved educational, personal, and professional outcomes.
“The findings will be of interest to educators, employers, and those who work with young women as they consider their future goals and aspirations,” said Susan Madsen, the UWLP founding director.
The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University analyzed student data from 17,402 women enrolled at their institution in Provo, Utah, 29.1% of whom took gap time to serve a full-time mission. It examined the impact of missionary service gap time by comparing female students who took gap time to serve a mission and female students who did not take gap time.
They found the following impacts,
According to the study, women who took missionary gap time were 33% more likely to switch to a major with higher earning potential compared with women who did not take gap time. “Missionary gap time appeared to help women learn about their preferences and abilities and increase their confidence.”UWLP said, “It also showed empowerment to choose a college major that suits her better, or opens new opportunities in the future.”
This is true of other studies which found that structured gap time involving travel relates to better academic outcomes for women after they return to college.
Some women who returned to college after missionary gap time even received higher grades UWLP said this is likely due to increased maturity and work ethic.
Because women who took gap time for missionary service often switched to majors with higher earning potential after missionary service, UWLP said they may have a better shot at financial stability and career growth.
Women who took part in the study, and that served missions stated they found increased interpersonal relationship skills, confidence, personal awareness, maturity, independence, courage, and an increased ability to overcome challenges.
“We found that 96% of the women who took gap time for missions returned to college after their time away,” said Maggie Marchant, a report author said. “Returning to school following gap time increases the chances of academic success, which in turn influences employment opportunities and future income.”
“We suggest that women carefully evaluate their motivations, circumstances, and goals
as they navigate the tension between those costs and benefits” UWLP said, “and make decisions about whether to take gap time for missionary service or other reasons.”
The study showed that although missionary gap time can result in positive impacts, it can also result in negative outcomes, especially if they don’t finish their education. However, UWLP states that there are actions they can take to minimize the drawbacks, and experience the best outcome after their gap time.
UWLP states that,
- Young adult women should weigh the potential costs and benefits that may come educationally, professionally, and personally.
- Before women start and complete gap-time experiences, they can make firm commitments to return to school.
- Family and university advisors can encourage women to return to school and support them in the process.
- Scholarships and grants can be provided to students returning from gap time.
- Flexible academic options such as a rolling application system or multiple deadlines throughout the year can be made available.
“The study showed that gap time experiences have the potential to change a person’s life trajectory and boost their understanding of themselves and the world,” said Jocelyn S. Wikle, a report author.