What to Know if You’re Considering a Gap Year

Gap Year Consulting

What’s a gap year?  

I’ve heard that it is just an extended vacation. 

A gap year is not an extended bout of procrastination. And it’s not a directionless year off. It’s more like a year ON. A year to develop skills, work, discover and pursue personal interests, or travel.  

Historically, although some colleges encouraged students to take gap years, “gap friendly” colleges have become more common – more colleges not only accept them, but some colleges have instituted their own gap year programs and allow admitted students to delay enrolling as freshmen. 

Why take a gap year?

Students choose this alternative path for many reasons: 

  • to take a break from formal education
  • to learn more about themselves
  • because they are not ready for college
  • they want to have “real world” experiences or do in-depth volunteer work
  • uncertainty about world events, such as what we currently see with COVID 

How colleges view students who have taken a gap year 

Students who take gap years are appealing to colleges. Gappers typically enter college with great confidence, self-awareness, and maturity, as well as a more developed sense of personal responsibility. 

When to apply to college if you want to take a gap year

Colleges certainly accept applicants after their gap year. But it’s usually simpler to complete and submit applications to colleges during the senior year in high school when school records, test scores, and recommendations are readily available and more easily requested. Once admitted, students should ask for a deferral and provide details about how they would like to spend the year. 

It’s up to each college admissions office if they will hold your place or if you will need to reapply. If they won’t hold your place, you will be reapplying to colleges during the gap year – possibly using internet cafes to contact references, request records, and submitting applications from villages with spotty internet!

How Community College Fits In

Gap years are traditionally non-academic. If you take courses at another college or attend a community college, that typically means you are a transfer student. This may require another application and more hoops to jump through with no guarantees that you are receiving academic credit.

Determining if taking a gap year is right for you 

Before moving forward with a gap year, it will be helpful to 

  • know why it’s important to you to take a gap year
  • be aware of your goals for the break-in your formal education
  • have researched some ideas of how you will spend the time off

The most important thing to figure out is what you want to learn about yourself during this planned break from your formal education. Dig deep. 

As you think about the examples below, ask yourself what you want to get from the experience. How will you structure the year? Can you juggle multiple experiences?  

Do you want to work in an orphanage? Tend elephants in a reserve? Live in a foreign country? Learn a foreign language by immersing yourself in a foreign country? Intern somewhere? Master a craft or a musical instrument? Learn to cook? Work as a nanny or as a barista to earn money and learn about the world of work? Combine several different experiences? Work locally at a nonprofit organization or food bank? Volunteer for a political candidate? Are you interested in studying art history abroad? 

Financial Aid Considerations

How will your financial aid package be impacted if you defer? Will your merit award stay in place? Will your parents need to submit new financial aid forms?

Answers to these questions vary greatly depending on your individual circumstances and the schools you’re considering. Get in touch and we can discuss your particular needs.

Resources to Learn More