Tips for Gap Year Students

Who should take a Gap year?

  • Students who are not ready or mature enough to leave home yet
  • An athlete who wants a year to improve skills or physically develop more
    • Often athletes who play juniors take a PG year
  • An athlete who is considered recruitable athletically but needs to improve academics
    • Those who need to improve academically may take a PG year at a prep school 
  • Students who have deposited at a college but are not sure if it is the best fit and want to take time to think about it and possibly submit applications elsewhere for the following year
  • Students who are burned out academically and want time to recharge 
  • Financial reasons
  • Students who have the opportunity to continue doing research started during high school
  • Ideally, students have a solid school to go to after the year is over and who have a full plan and reassurance that after this year they will begin school somewhere

What are the benefits?

  • Time to develop greater maturity and independence
  • Develop readiness to focus academically
  • Time to make money for tuition and apply for more scholarships
  • Become more rested and refreshed
  • Time to think about academic interests and do career exploration
  • Making the decision to take a Gap Year in and of itself can be a maturing experience and helps the student recognize what’s important
  • A Gap Year can be a pivotal time for the student to enhance their admissions profile by getting involved in something they have always been interested in but havent had time to develop (such as a passion project, internship, exploring new cultures through travel, volunteering opportunities, helping or spending time with relatives in need etc.) 

What are the drawbacks?

  • It can be hard to feel “left behind” when student’s friends leave for college
  • It can feel disorienting when stepping out of the traditional academic trajectory
  • Students need to find something productive to do with the year
  • There is no roadmap to follow
  • Some organized Gap Year programs are expensive

Are there resources to help me plan a Gap year?

  • There are consultants who specialize in this for a fee
  • A Google search can yield many programs for a Gap Year
  • Most bookstores sell a variety of books on the subject that are separated into categories of type of program, location, etc.

Important Information

  • After depositing at a college or university students must ask if the college will allow them to take a Gap Year and if they will save their spot for the following year.
  • Most colleges will ask the student to put in writing an outline of how they intend to spend the year.
  • With few exceptions students will not be allowed to take more than 2 college courses during their Gap Year. If they do, they must reapply to college as a transfer student
  • Before students decide to take a Gap Year, make sure their financial aid package at the school where they have deposited will still be available to them. They will probably have to submit a new FAFSA.
  • Some colleges will only approve a Gap Year if a student commits to enrolling the following year
    • If student is bound to the college, the HS counselor will not send transcripts to other colleges during the Gap Year

Impact of COVID-19 on Gap Year

  • The idea of taking a Gap Year has been affected by Covid. People are beginning to realize that students don’t have to be in such a rush to go from high school to college, especially in these uncertain times. 
  • More students are taking a Gap Year now because they didn’t get in to the college of their choice due to the changes in the admissions landscape (i.e. test optional, applying to more colleges, etc.)

Tips for Gap Year Students

  • While at home students can still maintain a social life which can be more difficult without the structure that high school provided academically and socially. The student must find other ways to keep himself busy and meet new people. 
  • Students who have not deposited at a college need to focus more on building a Gap Year that makes them more attractive as an applicant
  • They still need to focus on enhancing their application and profile because their transcript will remain the same
  • Consider re-taking standardized tests if appropriate
  • Students should take advantage of this time to be more intentional in researching and finding the school that best fits their needs and interests
  • The experience of taking a year away from formal education can change your perspective of what is important to you in a college experience
  • Taking a year away from formal education allows students to explore different interests that may change their perspective on what they might wish to study or what type of college they wish to attend 

Resource guide created by Cindy Pendergast