When to Consider a Gap Year Before College

For the most part, high-school students view college the same way Veruca Salt viewed the candy in Willy Wonka’s factory: “I want it now!” However, a growing number of students are deciding to delay their college plans and take a gap year.

Let’s take a look at some of the common concerns students have regarding this process.

“Will taking a year off hurt my chances of being admitted to college?”

Absolutely not! Many students are worried that leaving the academic environment will make it harder to rejoin. While motivation can become a factor when you stay away for a long time, taking a year off won’t automatically harm your chances of admission. In fact, the additional time to prepare and enrich applications often helps students significantly!

“I don’t know what to do in that time. What do admissions offices want to see?”

Nothing in particular! While this may come as a shock, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ activity for gap years. Admissions offices simply want to see that you are using your time wisely and that you can articulate the benefits of those experiences.

“Does a gap year mean I get more time to prepare applications?”

Yes, but there’s a catch. While students can roll over their Common App accounts, the application timeline remains the same. So while you can spend some time improving your application, it’s important to remember that just like your senior year of high school, you will apply in the fall of your gap year. Many students plan extravagant gap years not realizing they will have to apply to college before they have completed many of their plans.

“I’m worried it will be harder to make friends if I delay entry.”

College campuses can be incredibly diverse, with students arriving from all over the world and with many different backgrounds. Throw graduate students into that mix and it’s near impossible to pin down what a ‘typical’ student is. You being one year older shouldn’t stand in the way of you getting involved on campus and making plenty of friends!

“All I see are potential problems. What are the benefits to taking time off?”

Apart from the additional time to prepare your application materials, the gap year can be used to prepare yourself for college! By filling the year with commitments that add depth and meaning to your life, you give yourself the opportunity to grow. This may be through work experience, travel, volunteering, or the mastery of a new skill. The best part is that you get to define your own success.

Entering college can be a jarring experience for many. It is often the first time students have control over their classes, free time, and day-to-day activities. But by taking a step back to prepare for those changes, you may set yourself up for success in the long run.

If you’re considering a gap year but are still unsure, ask yourself, “Do I feel ready for college?” If the answer is yes, then charge forward with those applications! However, if you are unsure, know that it’s completely fine to take some additional time to prepare. College is what you make of it; there is no one path that’s best for everyone!

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