By: Mia Myklebust
Many high school students (and their parents) think that the only way to go to college is to start the year after high school. Since a young age we have been programmed to think of the college process in a certain order, however, this is not necessarily the best option for every student. For some kids, the right decision is to take a year off before continuing to college. This year is often called a “gap year.”
There are several different reasons a student could decide to take a gap year. If you do decide it is a good option for you, the most important thing to remember is that it’s just one year. It can be easy to fall off of the college track once you’ve decided to defer, so make sure you have a specific activity you are planning to do for the year.
Why take a gap year:
1. To re-charge your batteries- The truth is some students just feel burned out after high school. Senior year, in particular, can be very stressful with college applications and a heavier course-load and some kids just need a bit of time off to re-charge before jumping into the hectic and demanding world of college.
2. To get a certain experience or exposure- The type of experience will be different for each student. Generally, activities done in a gap year have an educational value in a broader sense of the term. Think life experience. Some typical activities include volunteering in another community, perhaps in a foreign country, or serving in the Peace Corps. You should think long and hard before taking this route. Is this something that you could do while you’re in college? Or maybe after you’ve earned your degree? Make sure if you’re choosing to take time off to expose yourself to a certain experience that now is the ideal time to be doing it.
3. You don’t feel ready for college- Some kids just don’t feel ready to head off to the big fish pond that is college. If a student does not feel ready emotionally or intellectually, a gap year could be the right move. However, make sure that you’re not spending the year sitting around at home putting off receiving an education. As we mentioned above, find an enriching activity to immerse yourself in so your year will be worthwhile.
If you do decide to take a gap year for one of the reasons above, there is a specific way that you should go about taking it.
Step 1: Apply to college. Do this Senior year with the rest of your peers. Taking a gap year is not an excuse to put off the hard work of applying to college. Apply now!
Step 2: Get accepted. Make sure you have been accepted to and chosen the school you want to go to. Remember not being accepted is not a good reason to take a gap year either. Rather than take a year off enroll at your local community college and start planning How to Transfer to a 4-Year College, if that’s your goal.
Step 3: Defer. Let the college you’ve chosen know that you are deferring your acceptance for one year. Do not forget this step! If you do, you will not be able to enroll the following year.
Step 4: Tell your college what you plan to do with this gap year. You will need to provide your college with a good reason why you have decided not to start school in the fall. Make sure to finalize your plans before letting them know.
Taking a gap year can be a positive experience, but only if you take the decision seriously, plan ahead and go to school when the year is up. For more information on applying to college head on over to CollegeMapper.com.