So You're Thinking about a Gap Year....
What is a Gap Year?
Taking a gap year between high school and college is becoming more and more popular in recent years. During 2020 when we were in the height of the pandemic, freshman college enrollment dropped 13.1% compared to just 1.4% in the fall of 2019, according to NSCRC (CNBC “College Interrupted”). Many of those students chose a gap year because they couldn’t afford tuition with parents out of work, chose to travel, or chose to just delay college because they didn’t want a compromised experience.
A few years later, gap years are becoming more common! Many more students are considering it more seriously as they weigh their options after high school graduation. So you are not alone! During a gap year, you can travel, gain work experience, volunteer in your community, or complete a specific gap year program. Many colleges will support a gap year experience by allowing you to defer matriculation for one year after they admit you.
Benefits of a Gap Year
There are many reasons a purposeful gap year can be a wonderful choice for students. Students who have taken a gap year are often more “mature, driven, and prepared” for college. Colleges are seeing that gap years “open doors for students, both academically and in their future careers” (Gap Year Association). In a study by Bob Clagett at Middlebury College, statistics showed that students who took a gap year had consistently higher GPAs than their peers who did not take a gap year (Clagett, R. 2012, September 26. Regressions on GPA, Classes of 2011-14).
Your parents may worry that a gap year will interrupt your educational path, but statistics also show us that 90% of students who take gap years return to college directly after that year. Gap year students also show a clearer direction when they return to college. Many students have reported that taking a gap year changed the direction of their major or future career. A gap year can be a wonderful way to explore the world, develop some maturity, and discern a direction or calling before starting college and making a financial investment in post-secondary education.
How Do Colleges Feel about Gap Years?
You might be worried that a gap year might negatively affect your college admission. However, most colleges look favorably on students who take gap years. In fact, many schools (like Harvard University) even encourage it! However, it is important that a gap year be structured and productive. If you take a gap year, you should have a clear idea of what you hope to do and accomplish during the year off and what benefits you seek. Communication is key. Ask the colleges you are considering how they handle gap year students and what their approach is.
I’m Interested! Now What?
Here are some tips for considering and applying for gap years:
If you are interested in a gap year, apply to college in 12th grade as you normally would!
Talk to admissions counselors at the schools you’re interested in to see what their gap year policy is or if they offer a specific gap year program (many schools do!).
Explore your possibilities! Do some research on specific gap year programs, consider paid internships, and research volunteer opportunities. Develop an idea of what you want to do and how you might explain your plan to colleges. (They will prefer a focused plan!)
Research colleges that allow and encourage a gap year. Look for schools that have an Official Gap Year College/University Seal as part of your research.
When you are admitted to a school, apply for a deferment. Give your college a specific plan for your year away. When you finish your gap year, you can then enroll in the school as a college freshman. (Be aware you may have to share evidence with the school about how your enacted your gap year plan!)
Want more Information?
TED Talk on Benefits of a Gap Year (2019)
Clinch College Consulting