Taking a Gap Year: Not for the Faint of Heart

Should you take some time off in between your high school and college years?  It is a fairly popular trend in Europe and Australia, and the practice is increasing in the U.S. 

There have been a variety of studies and articles that espouse the benefits of taking a year off. Students who delay college for a year tend to have an increased GPA, and are more likely to graduate on time

According to some surveys, 60% of students who take a gap year said it helped to confirm their choice of major or career.  And just in case your parents are worried, 90% of students who take a gap year continue to college.


Preparing For Your “Time Off”

When done correctly, a gap year is not vacation.  It requires passion, drive, commitment and organization.  What most counselors and college administrators suggest is for students to apply to their chosen colleges in high school, even if they intend on taking some time off.  At the same time they should be applying to internships, jobs, or making plans to travel or volunteer.  

After receiving acceptance letters to colleges, students should call the schools they are interested in and ask to defer enrollment for a semester, or a year.  They may also have to re-negotiate financial aid and scholarships after their year-off is up.

Most colleges are open to the possibility of delaying enrollment, as long as they are presented with a viable plan.  In fact some actively encourage it, including the prestigious Harvard University.

One of the highest profile students to take advantage of this offer is Malia Obama, who will be attending Harvard in the fall of 2017 after taking some time off.

When you consider all the steps students have to take to make their bridge year a success, it is easy to see why they do so well in college.  Not only do they complete their “time off” with more life experience, giving them increased confidence and motivation, they also have experience making plans, setting goals and working their butt off to achieve them: all traits that spell success in college.

Should you take a gap year?

It could be a good idea for a lot of students. The majority of students change majors in college, and less than half of students are able to graduate in four years. Not only are many students not sure of what they want to do, they may also be unprepared academically or socially, which can add to their stress and delay graduation.

Instead of taking an extra year in college to figure out your life (while paying huge tuition bills) it makes sense to do it before you get there.

Students who are successful in taking a gap year and then transitioning to school are so because of their plan. They were able to form a vision, and then take steps to make their dreams a reality. Perhaps this is the best experience a gap year can give you: the practice of forming a plan to follow your dreams.

Not sure what major to choose? Get matched to your best majors.