Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Karen Buchanan, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Patrick Allen, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susanna Thornhill, Ph.D.


Emerging adolescence is a stage of development between adolescence and adulthood when young people are most concerned with personal identity development. During this time of life, young people have several postsecondary education choices; such as attending college, entering the work force immediately, or embracing an alternative educational experience such as a Gap Year. The Gap Year originated in Great Britain and is gaining momentum in the United States. A Gap Year has potential to be a transformative educational experience for emerging adolescents, particularly related to identity development. The purpose of this research was to explore indicators of identity development in a set of 419 open-ended responses to a question in a national Gap Year alumni survey that asked, “What skills or knowledge did you acquire as a result of your Gap Year?” Chickering and Reisser’s framework of identity development provided the structure for the analysis, and Qualitative Content Analysis was employed as the method. Analysis showed indicators of alumni-perceived gains, affiliated primarily with initial stages of identity development. Analysis also indicated alumni-perceived gains in comprehensive stages of identity development that are dependent on development in initial stages. This study contributes to the limited research on Gap Year experiences by illuminating the identity development potential of Gap Year programming. It also indicates the need for further original research focused on the identity development potential of the Gap Year.

Included in

Education Commons