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.
TYPES OF GAP YEARS
Most gap years fall into one of two categories:
1. DEFERRED ENROLLMENT
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.
2. POST-GRADUATE (PG) YEAR
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 GOALS
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.
1. EXPLORE AN ACADEMIC AREA OF INTEREST
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.
2. REFINE YOUR FUTURE GOALS
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.
IS A GAP YEAR RIGHT FOR YOU?
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.