How to Determine if a Gap Year is Right For You
There’s a reason why celebrities like Malia Obama and Yara Shahidi opt to take some time off before enrolling in college: taking a gap year can have some serious benefits. In addition to being able to recharge before the demands of university life, studies have found that students who take a gap year have higher retention and graduation rates than their peers who go straight to college.
Some students may choose to take a gap year after applying and being accepted to college, while others might have gotten a late start in the admissions process and wish to reapply in the fall. Before committing to taking a gap year, it’s important to decide if a year “off” is the right decision for your needs and goals. Keep reading to learn more about what to consider when reviewing whether a gap year is a smart move for your future!
Review Your Goals and Intentions
Reserve some time to reflect on why you are interested in taking a gap year and how you will use this time to pursue your interests and goals. While it is perfectly normal to want some time to recharge after four years of high school, a gap year isn’t designed to be an extended vacation. Instead, it’s a time to pursue learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Think about what kind of opportunities you would be interested in exploring during this year and what role these experiences will play in achieving your long term goals.
Do Your Research
Before committing to any path, it’s important to have all of the facts and details. Once you have an idea of why you are interested in taking a gap year, start to research potential programs and learning opportunities you would like to pursue. The possibilities are endless, but some options include language immersion programs, teaching abroad, conservation and sustainability projects, volunteer corps, and interning and working. Make a list of specific opportunities that interest you, what each option entails, and the information you hope to learn from the experience.
Factor Education In
Don’t forget to factor your post-gap year plans into the equation! If you have already been accepted to your top choice college and which to defer for a year, research their policies regarding gap years and deferrals. Check to see if you will need to pay a tuition deposit for the fall term for which you want to enroll, and when this needs to be paid. If you plan on using your gap year to apply to other colleges, create a timeline for when you will tour schools and work on each application.
Create an Itinerary
Creating a gap year itinerary is a great way to stay organized and begin to plan your experience. Map out when you would participate in any specific programs or learning opportunities, how much time this would entail, and any other pursuits you are interested in balancing. If you plan on applying to colleges during this gap year, set aside time for each part of the application process to ensure that you don’t over-book yourself.
Weigh Pros and Cons
At the end of the day, taking a gap year is an important decision and students should consider many factors before making a final call. Give yourself time to create a list of reasons why you are interested in taking a gap year and potential benefits associated with this decision. Also jot down any concerns you have that relate to gap years. Having a concrete list to look back on can help students organize their thoughts and make an informed decision with confidence.
There’s no one-size-fits-all path to college and for some students, taking a gap year might be the best decision for their long-term goals. If your looking for personalized guidance throughout the college application process, our team of college admissions counselors can help you navigate each step.