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5 Things to Ask When Considering a Gap Year

For decades, Europeans have touted the benefits of taking a gap year in between High School College, but this choice has been much less popular here in the U.S. When the Obama’s announced earlier this year, however, that Malia would attend Harvard in 2017 after taking a gap year, the concept stirred a new level of interest and discussion.

Before making any major life decision, it’s important to take the time to gather all the facts. If you’re curious about whether a gap year is the right decision for you, first read through these FAQs.

  1. What qualifies as gap year? This term typically refers to a one year break students take between high school graduation and the first semester of college to explore personal development, travel, or participated in a structured program. According to The Princeton Review, “While there are many compelling reasons to take a gap year, one of the most common is the opportunity for students to explore their interests and develop a purpose for their future. Students can take a break from intense coursework and focus on enriching life experiences.”
  1. How many students actually take a gap year? While there are no official statistics that track participation in gap year programs, the Associated Pressreports that 30,000 to 40,000 students take advantage of the break each year. But the idea is trending—these numbers grew by 22 percent in 2015 alone, American Gap Association.
  1. If I want to go to college, but still take a gap year, when should I apply? Most experts agree that applying to college before you take the gap year will offer you a better chance of earning admission into the school of your choice. Considering many students travel abroad during their gap year, it can also make sense logistically to take care of the application process without adding in time differences and long-distance challenges. Still, students need to communicate their plans to the college admissions office. After they’ve been accepted, students should send a letter to the college’s director of admissions, defer their admittance, and outline what they plan to do for their gap year.
  1. What are the risks? What are the benefits? According to a National Center for Education Statistics study, students who choose to delay college by a year are at greater risk of not completing their degree when compared to those who entered college immediately following high school. And there are financial risks to consider as well. According to TIME, a formal gap year programs can cost as much as $30,000—equal to one full year at a private university. But not all gap year programs break the bank. Programs such as AmeriCorps, City Year or WWOOF-USA provide lower cost options, all of which pay for room and board. When researching a gap year, there are some clear benefits that students should consider.
    • College transition: According to US News find they transition easier into the college environment after spending a year away from home, learning how to live more independently.
    • A needed refresh: Many other students report that taking a gap year gives a much needed break from school, allowing time to focus on personal growth and the development of life skills.
    • Admissions experts encourage it: William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid atHarvard, considers the gap year a good way to avoid college burnout. Fitzsimmons told US News that students who come to school after a gap year are “so fresh, anxious, and excited to be back in school. The feedback from students almost all the time has been that this experience was transformative. The more life experience you bring, the better off you are in school,” he said.
  1. How can College Choice Today help? Whether you’re considering a gap year, or planning to head straight from high school to college, be sure to have specific goals in mind. Our teams of experts help students and their families make the best, most informed decisions about college, career, and your future. Get started today!


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