The Gap Year

A gap year is when a student takes a year off from school before starting college degree. A few years ago, many counselors advised against taking a gap year, because the fear was that students would enjoy their freedom from school too much and never return to further their education. While this is certainly a reality in some cases, there are things each high school student can to do increase their chances of returning to college while making the most of their gap year.

Deferment

When you are accepted into a college, you can defer your admittance. What this means is that you tell the college that you plan on attending the following year. In many cases the college will reserve your acceptance for a specific amount of time. Keep in mind that you may have to put down a deposit to reserve your spot. Deferment holds you accountable for your own college career. By having a set time to begin college, you can almost guarantee you will attend because you have already been accepted to a school and in most cases have put down a deposit.

When you defer your admittance, some colleges also ask that you provide a detailed account of your activities while you were out of school. There are a few ways you can impress the admissions board of your college while taking a gap year.

Working

Working to save money for a year will ease the financial burden of attending college. Working for a year can also make the transition from high school to college easier, as many students benefit from taking a year to mature before venturing directly into college. A student can choose to move to the state in which he/she will attend college to establish residency, thus reducing the yearly cost of tuition. Speak with your college advisor to learn of any positions available directly with the school to slash tuition prices once you attend. 

Volunteering

Taking time to serve your community is a great way to broaden your perspective, as well as augment your resume and impress the admissions board of the college you chose. Many students even choose to volunteer full time through organizations like the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, or AmeriCorps. If you are a high school student, your high school guidance counselor will have more information about how to get involved with these organizations. Non-traditional students can research volunteer opportunities through major non-profit organizations, religious institutions, or even your employer.

Traveling

Many students take a gap year to explore the world. There are multiple exchange programs for students that allow you to see different parts of the world. You can also travel independently by taking a road trip across the U.S. or backpacking across Europe. Traveling is a great way to gain perspective and mature for a year before enrolling in an associate's or bachelor's degree program. You can visit sites like the CIEE to see what traveling opportunities are available. 

Explore all your options before taking a gap year, and have a plan in place to make sure you enter college ready to learn!

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