Degree Name





Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Jocelyn Wikle

First Faculty Reader

Eric Eide

Honors Coordinator

John Stovall


economics, education, mission, gap year, major, women


Young adults throughout the United States and other countries participate in “gap years,” or time away from school, often for travel, work, or volunteering. This practice is promoted as a way to mature and refocus. However, some worry that it lowers the likelihood of college completion. Previous literature has investigated the academic, social, and personal benefits of gap years with mixed results; however selection into gap years confounds the true impact with unobservable personal characteristics. To overcome selection issues, I exploit an exogenous policy change that lowered age requirements for missionary service, a unique type of gap year, resulting in a large increase in women serving. Using data from Brigham Young University students before and after this policy change and an instrumental variable approach I measure the impact of taking time away from school on academics. Results from the analysis demonstrate that women who go on missions have higher GPAs and unique patterns of major selection. This research contributes to the understanding of women’s experience in post-secondary education. It is also important for university administrators to understand as they consider how to mentor and recruit students.