Gap Year Top Tips

Are You Considering a Gap Year?

With the fate of the fall 2020 semester hanging in the balance and potentially altering your freshman fall, we can understand why SO many current seniors are considering a gap year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the volume of requests, colleges are forming policies about approving them. Clearly, they can’t accept all gap year requests and those with the most compelling health or financial reasons will be considered first. With the level of restrictions in place not to mention a severely depleted job market, before you make this request, be sure you are able to plan a meaningful and scholarly year worthy of an approval.


Taking a gap year between high school and college can be a wonderful opportunity to explore your interests and develop your future goals. Gap years are gaining popularity in the United States, which many researchers attribute to increasing demands and pressures on high school students. Many colleges openly encourage students to consider spending some time away from formal education, some propose the gap year option in their letters of admission, and a few schools offer their own gap year options and cover tuition to selected students.

If spending some time away from school is a possibility for you, your first step is to identify the type of gap year that fits your schedule and goals.


Most gap years fall into one of two categories:


After being admitted to a college or university, students ask for permission to postpone matriculation for a year. If this is the case for you and you’ve already gotten into the college of your choice, you’ll have more flexibility to pursue experiences that may not be available to you during college. To proceed, however, your accepting college must agree with your plan.


Many students choose to wait to apply to college until after their high school graduation. If this is your plan, we encourage you to strategically design a post graduate gap year that will improve your chances of admission to the college of your choice.

Whether you are holding a college acceptance letter or planning to build your resume before applying, colleges care about what you do with your time off. A successful gap year is not always a break from academics, but rather a time to demonstrate your productivity, academic engagement, and preparedness for college.

In the case of deferred enrollment, the strength of your gap year plan will determine whether or not your request for a year away is granted. For PG students, your gap year experiences will directly impact your odds of college admission. Carefully consider what will be the most productive plan on your road to a successful college career.

Gap Year Make It Count


If you have not yet been admitted to college and plan to take a PG year, we recommend approaching your gap year with two overarching goals in mind.


Maybe you loved your high school environmental science course but were so busy with APs and standardized testing that you never got the chance to learn more about innovations in renewable energy. Or you taught yourself to program in Java, but left your mobile app brainchild unfinished to lead your varsity team to the championship. Your gap year is the time to dive into the topic that most excites you and choose experiences that will expand your high school knowledge and prepare you to excel in college.


Choosing gap year experiences that allow you to sample work in your field of interest will teach you what you like and dislike, and set you up to make thoughtful academic and career choices.

If you have already been accepted to your dream college you may have academic goals for your year off, and you may also consider pursuing a social cause or creative endeavor. Princeton, for example, offers a tuition-free program that invites incoming first-year students to engage in nine months of University-sponsored service at one of five international locations. Look on your school’s admissions web page for information on gap years.


The decision to take a gap year can be both exciting and daunting. Your options may feel nearly limitless compared to your highly structured high school schedule, yet it is essential that you develop an organized gap year strategy that will set you on a successful path. Although there are many pre-programmed options, we recommend designing your own unique year that focuses on developing your academic interest. You want to show colleges exactly what you plan to add to their school. This is not an easy task, which is why we are here to help you explore your options, narrow your focus, and plan a transformative year that will prepare you for college and beyond.

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You’ve Been Accepted, Now What?

You’ve been admitted early to your dream school – now what?

As you head back to school in the new year, you have that telltale spring in your step. Admitted last month to your dream school in the early admissions round, your December holiday break was a time to reflect on all your hard work and share the wonderful news with friends and family.

Now’s the time to put high school in a lower gear and cruise to graduation, right?


The rest of senior year is just as important to colleges as the first three and a half years. Remember, colleges can (and sometimes will) change their minds and rescind an offer of admission if a student’s grades drop too far or integrity issues (academic or personal) come to light.

So, keep that happy feeling, stay on track, and enjoy your senior spring!


Here’s how:

Keep Senioritis at Bay

It’s so tempting to blow off your homework or skip studying for exams, but don’t slack off now. Colleges reserve the right to rescind an offer of admission if a student’s academic record differs significantly from the level at the time admission was offered. Remember, your college will receive your Mid-Year Grade Report (usually at the end of the first semester or second trimester, depending on the high school calendar). As part of the mid-year report, counselors are asked specifically to comment on any deviation from the level of achievement noted in your Secondary School Report. Admissions officers will review these mid-year reports, looking for evidence of continued academic excellence. If things start to go south, that could be a problem. Schools may send letters of warning if they see a bunch of grades drop to C or any grade lower than a C. You can expect to have to explain what happened…and that the admissions office will flag your file for later review.

If you think you just need to get past the mid-year in good shape, you’d be wrong again. Admissions offices will also receive your Final Grade Report, with your final grades for senior year. Again, admissions officers will take a close look at the final report, so senior year is not the time to slack off.

Character Always Counts

Your teachers and counselors wrote glowing letters of recommendation, speaking to your academic accomplishments, extracurricular impact, and the positive contributions you have made to your school and communities. Major ethical infractions that come to light now—even though you have been admitted—will prompt a reopening of your admissions file and could lead to your offer being rescinded if the infraction is very serious. So, what is serious, you ask? It varies from school to school, but anything that gets you arrested or an academic or personal integrity issue that gets you suspended would be taken very seriously.

Continue to make a positive impact through your activities and interests. Without the pressure and stress of college applications, look for ways where you can give more to those organizations that you are a part of. Why not use your ‘found time’ to pay it forward? Volunteer time for a cause you believe in and make a difference in your community. We guarantee that your time and talents will be greatly appreciated.

While you enjoy your last year of high school, remember that character always counts. Reports of students’ questionable actions and behavior as documented on social media could easily end up on the desk of the admissions dean. Time and again, we see examples of someone’s social media profile coming back to haunt them. Don’t let this happen to you.

senior year gap year

Consider a Gap Year

Use time this spring to consider the idea of a gap year and the opportunity that presents in terms of recharging your batteries and gaining valuable experience and perspective. Since colleges usually give students until June 30th to request to postpone their matriculation for a year, now’s the perfect time to start planning a gap year. From work to travel to service to learning new skills, pretty much anything goes on your gap year (except enrolling in another college in for-credit courses).

Connect With New Classmates

From Facebook groups to admitted student days, enjoy getting to know the students who will form the members of your college class. Also, read the campus paper and check their official news site to stay up to date on news and opportunities that you’ll want to take advantage of after you enroll.

Say Thank You

Be sure to stop by your college counseling office and say thank you to your counselor and the staff members who made sure that your transcripts and recommendations were submitted to your top choice school. Some homemade cookies wouldn’t hurt either! Also, make a special point to personally thank the teachers who wrote your letters of recommendation. Teachers have so much on their plates each year and use their personal time to write letters on their students’ behalf. Let’s face it, without glowing teacher and counselor recommendations, students would not be admitted.


Congratulations again on a wonderful achievement! Now, finish up strong, plan a wonderful summer (no test prep!), and prepare to embark on another exciting four-year journey!

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Colleges Still Accepting Applications

May 1 has come and gone and yet many colleges and universities still have space for freshman and/or transfer students. The NACA, National Association for College Admissions Consulting, has created a list, which is a voluntary opportunity for schools to post their status. Schools can post until June….


(U.S. News & World Reporting ranking #)

Among this year’s list are the following schools of interest:

colleges still accepting applications now


If your admission outcomes weren’t what you were hoping for at your top-choice schools… don’t quit, don’t give up! There are still some pretty fabulous schools accepting applications and this list is long. Or consider a scholastic gap year and try again next admissions cycle. Either way, take a breath, dig in and come September (one way or another) you’ll be onto the next stepping-stone in your life journey.

Gap Year

Gap Year Options

Michele was quoted in the Education Life section of the NY Times this week in response to gap year options. Thanks in part perhaps to President Obama’s daughter Malia opting to take a year off before college, gap years have become much more popular as burned out students are seeking a respite from the grind. There are many companies that specialize in designing gap year programs for students that combine travel abroad and community service. We recommend constructing your own gap year instead of using a pre-programmed option, one that focuses on developing an area of academic interest for at least part of the year combined with a “high impact” kind of idea that would show colleges what you plan to add to their class.

Though in theory, we like the idea of a year off, taking a gap year BEFORE you apply to college can be a negative at top colleges who are very focused on their enrollments and yields for the CURRENT year.

Here’s an excerpt from A College Application Guide for Gap Year Students:

Applying to college is onerous enough. Asking to defer enrollment for a year can be even more intimidating. Here’s how to navigate the gap-year process.

When to Apply to College

Delay freshman year, not your application. Students interested in a year off should still apply to college their senior year of high school, advises Michele Hernández, co-president of Top Tier Admissions and a former admissions officer at Dartmouth. It ensures that you’ll have access to your school’s resources and won’t be bogged down with applications and standardized testing during a year that may include travel abroad.

“You’d be surprised how quickly your high school forgets you,” Dr. Hernández said. “It’s really hard to go back and ask for teacher recommendations and the other materials you might need after a year has passed.”

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Waitlisted? It’s Not Too Late

This has been an unbelievable year in college admissions.  We’ve worked with students and families for over 15 years and nothing stays the same, we promise that.

The sheer number of applications is rising. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Harvard, Pomona, Stanford, U Penn, Emory and Yale are just some of the schools who report the largest number of applicants in their school’s history and UCLA broke all records with 100,000 applications this year for the Class of 2021. Cornell University received the highest number of applications in the Ivy League with 47,038 applications. Stanford was the most selective college in the country, with an acceptance rate of 4.65% for the Class of 2021.

The number of early applications is also off the charts this year.  A small school like Colby, for instance, had an increase in early decision applications for the third year in a row. This year they received 11,190 applications for 500 spots for the Class of 2021, up 14 percent from last year and 117 percent from 2014.  Georgetown accepted 11.9 percent of 7,822 early action applicants to the Class of 2021, which is 1 percent lower than last year’s 13 percent –it was the lowest acceptance rate they’ve ever had.

Of course, this means it’s a record year for low acceptance rates overall.  And, the Ivies are no longer the toughest schools to get into! Pomona had an 8 percent acceptance rate; Georgetown was 15.43 percent; Vanderbilt 10.19 percent; Northwestern 9.1 percent; Duke 9.06 percent!

All this to say it’s been a tough year for many seniors and we’ve heard from many parents and students who didn’t work with us and wish they had.  If you were waitlisted, take a breath and plan a response! If you were rejected and yes, we’ve heard from kids who were rejected at all their colleges. Perhaps they aimed too high or they simply didn’t have strong applications and with this many applications and rise in quality of applications there were many surprised applicants.  It’s not the end of the world.  Take heart and take action.



What’s the good news if your college outcomes weren’t what you hoped? It’s not too late!

  • Option 1: Take a gap year and prepare your freshman applications again, but this time with our help at Application Boot Camp this August 2017 in BostonWe can help you craft a gap year strategy and refine essays that put you in the best possible light and we’ll develop an application strategy with you to prepare early action, early decision, regular, and rolling applications to submit in fall 2017 for an August 2018 start date as a freshman at your top-choice colleges!
  • Option 2: For waitlisted students, we offer a Waitlist Analysis Program that includes a thorough analysis of your submitted essays and applications, a personalized student report, and customized input and advice on how to get accepted from the waitlist.
  • Option 3: Apply to additional colleges this April 2017, for an August 2017 start date as a freshman. For students who received rejection letters and are aiming to apply to additional colleges this April, it’s not too late. Many colleges still have rolling deadlines and are accepting applications. Review the Essay Guidance Program and consider some colleges still accepting applications.

As of April 5, 2017, the following colleges are still accepting applications: (and this is just a sampling)


Application Deadline

Bowling Green State University


Cal State U –San Bernardino


Nazareth College


Rochester Institute of Technology


Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD)


U Wisconsin Parkside


University of Charleston


University of New Orleans


University of Washington-Tacoma campus


University of Wyoming


UT Dallas


How can you find colleges still accepting applications?

  • Use the Universal College Application website: They offer a simple list of colleges still accepting applications HERE.

Always check college admissions websites to confirm deadlines. Additional questions? Let us know!