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Does Taking a Gap Year Affect College Admission?

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Nicole Adams

Going straight to college after high school isn’t the best choice for everyone. You may feel unprepared, burnt out or unsure of what you want to do with the rest of your life. Luckily more and more colleges and universities are embracing and even encouraging a gap year. There are two main ways to approach this time off traditional schooling, deferring college admission or delaying the application process. As long as you approach it mindfully, a gap year can positively impact your application. 

Does Taking a Gap Year Impact College Admission?

In addition to taking a break from 12+ years in school, a gap year gives you a chance to see the world in a different way and learn and experience things you’d never encounter in a traditional classroom. Travel is probably the most common gap year endeavor, but some have to put their college plans on hold to care for a family member or for personal health reasons. As long as you approach this time off strategically regardless of the reason, chances are good that it might even help boost college your application. 

Many universities are encouraging students to take a gap year, and are beginning to recognize that taking before college can actually help students develop practical and interpersonal skills, demonstrate a commitment to service and global engagement, or take a break to focus on their health or help a loved one. If the college you’re interested in doesn’t explicitly outline their stance on a gap year, reach out to the admissions department and ask; you’ll also need to know whether to delay or defer your application. 

The Gap Year Association defines this educational interlude as “a semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to a career or postsecondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional and personal awareness.” It can be a great opportunity, so don’t be afraid that it’ll hurt your chances of getting into college. As long as you plan, work toward your goals and stay on top of deadlines and responsibilities, it’ll be another aspect that factors into your admissions decision.

Applying to College After a Gap Year 

Taking a gap year before college or university won’t affect your admission chances if you use your time and experience wisely. There are two main ways to approach a gap year: deferring admission and delaying application. Deferring simply means that you have been accepted to the school, but you decide to defer or postpone attendance for a year. Delaying means that you are delaying the application process for the year after you graduate high school and will apply during your gap time. 

The approach you choose will largely depend on the university you choose. Some colleges only allow deferrals for accredited gap year programs while others may require you to take additional action during or after the application process. If you plan to apply, then postpone your start date after acceptance, make sure you understand the deferral policy of each school you apply to. If you delay, or wait to apply until after you’re out of high school, you’ll need to stay on top of deadlines to make sure you can enroll seamlessly after your gap experience. 

There are two times to mention the importance of your gap year when you’re applying for college: the admissions essay and the interview. Whether you’ve had the experience, or are anticipating the impact it’ll have, these are opportunities for you to write and speak honestly about your goals, aspirations and experiences you’ve had during your time away from formal education. Interviews are a chance for colleges to learn about you and how you’ll contribute to their community; it’s the perfect setting to have a dialogue about the results of your gap time. 

Traveling abroad, immersing yourself in a different culture, learning a new language, and seeing the world from a different perspective is a transformative experience that can help better prepare you for college. We’d love to see you on a trip! Give us a call 800.982.9203 or contact us to learn more.  

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