College Alternatives

Should I Take a Gap Year?

What is a Gap Year?

Some think of it as vacation ๐Ÿ– or time off to spend with friends and family, while others say itโ€™s a time for you to save money ๐Ÿ’ฐ for college or to volunteer in programs abroad towards humanitarian or educational causes. Ask different people, and youโ€™ll receive a variety of responses.

There is no one way to define a gap year and what you must do during this time. Instead, a gap year is an opportunity to do whatโ€™s best for you. While it can be stereotyped as a waste of time, research shows students who take a gap year between high school and college perform better in college. Gap years are a fantastic opportunity to gain experience, recover from academic burnout ๐Ÿฅต, help your family, or contribute to a cause about which you are passionate.

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What to Do During a Gap Year

There are many different paths you can choose for your gap year, whether it be an individually guided experience or an organized program. There are many organized gap year programs online, and you can reach out to your future schools to see if they offer any gap year opportunities.

Tip: The COVID-19 pandemic ๐Ÿฆ  shouldnโ€™t alter your plans to take time away from schpol; there are excellent virtual ๐Ÿ–ฅ opportunities out there! ย Many students chose to take a gap year because of the pandemic in hopes of experiencing a more traditional school experience next year.

Benefits of a Gap Year

There are so many potential benefits to a gap year ranging from personal to social to academic! Learn more about if college is right for you here.

  • Personal Benefits:
  • Increased self-awareness, self-confidence, maturity, and independence, in addition to greater ownership of education and increased happiness.
  • Check out this video on more ways to take control of your academic growth.
  • Social Benefits:
  • Gaining valuable life experience, first-hand knowledge of the world, global ๐ŸŒ awareness, and core skills such as communication.
  • Academic Benefits:
  • The Gap Year Association and Temple University report found that students who take gap years graduate earlier than the traditional 4-6 years of study. After recovering from high school burnout, you can refocus your energy towards figuring out your potential major and career interests.
  • Check out this article on the differences and meanings between college degrees

Setting goals before starting a gap year and breaking them into milestones can help you maximize these benefits. You will learn first-hand how to manage your time best and make the most of your day-to-day life.

Drawbacks of a Gap Year

Like with any decision, there are potential disadvantages to choosing to take a gap year ๐Ÿ“ and you should evaluate their relevance to your circumstances.

  • Expense:
  • Plans to participate in a program or travel worldwide can be expensive.
  • Loss of Momentum:
  • You may feel like taking time off will get you out of the habit of focused, productive work, or that the break will make you forget the academic skills that you built throughout high school.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO):
  • Taking the year off means that most of your high school classmates will be a year ahead of you in college, and you may feel like you are missing out.
  • Personal Responsibility:
  • Taking a gap year places the responsibility of your growth and learning in your hands โ€”you are going to have to make big decisions, and as with any new experience, you will probably make some mistakes along the way.

The Verdict ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš–๏ธ

So should you take a gap year? We canโ€™t give you that answerโ€”this is a huge life decision that you have to make for yourself. To decide whether a gap year is right for you, reflect on your life right now and your goals for the future. Consider the benefits and the disadvantages, and donโ€™t be scared to go a different direction than what everyone around you is doing.

How Do You Take a Gap Year?

If you decide to take a gap year, you have a couple of options for how to proceed.

1. Postpone College Applications: You can apply to colleges during your gap year rather than during your senior year.

2. Defer College Admission: You can apply to colleges during senior year and then request a deferral, a postponement of the start of your freshman year. Colleges and universities are increasingly amenable to the idea of gap year, since they also recognize its benefits. Some schools even offer their own gap year programs! Others, like Harvard, even encourage students upon acceptance to take a gap year.

Check out this video on what all of the college decisions and options mean.

Note: Many schools will grant a year-long deferral but not a deferral for a shorter amount of time. Be sure to research your schoolโ€™s policy before planning your gap year. ย 

How Do I Defer College Acceptance?

  • Apply to college during the regular application timeline in your senior year.

  • Once accepted, commit to the school.
  • Send a letter or email to the college's director of admissions and outline your gap year plan.
  • The admissions committee will evaluate the letter and grant or deny the deferral.
  • Deferral letters are sent between April and mid-June

Check out this article with 7 alternatives to the traditional college pathway!

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