Knowing the landscape is critical to gap year planning
Taking a gap year after high school can be a great way to recharge your batteries, gain new experiences, and prepare yourself to hit the ground running in college. Studies have shown that students who defer their admission by a year—whether they choose to work, travel, volunteer, or pursue some other passion—are more likely to graduate on time, get better grades and, most importantly, enjoy college than those who enter straight from high school. According to Holly Bull, President of the Center for Interim Programs, gap years have enjoyed an “explosion of interest, press, and awareness” over the last five years. As she puts it, “I believe the gap year option is definitely here to stay in the US and that it will eventually become mainstream.”
Colleges offer opportunities for gap year students
Interested in a gap year? You should keep in mind that colleges are increasingly offering opportunities for admitted students who want to take one. But you should also be aware that it is becoming more common for colleges to restrict gap years with various policies.
The new gap year landscape means that it pays to look out for opportunities, but it also crucial to read the fine print.
Keep an eye out for opportunity…
It is now widely acknowledged that gap years not only offer enriching experiences; they also can help you succeed in college. And this has encouraged many colleges and universities to offer different kinds of support for students deferring admission by a year.
Here are a few examples of the kinds of programs you can find:
- Florida State’s Gap Year Fellows Program
- Duke’s Gap Year Program
- American University’s Gap Experience Program
- Princeton’s Bridge Year Program
- UNC’s Global Gap Year Fellowship
- Tufts’ 1+4 Bridge Year Program
…But read the fine print!
If you’re interested in a gap year, be sure to look closely at any regulations your college might have that limit eligibility for gap years, or restrict what you can do on them (most schools publish this information somewhere on their admissions office website).
It is fairly standard for colleges to forbid you from enrolling for credit at another school during a gap year, but more and more colleges are adding other restrictions. Here are some examples of important questions to ask:
What is the process for requesting a gap year? Do I have to apply?
For most colleges, the answer is “yes.
Can I apply to other colleges while on a gap year?
If I applied through a binding Early Decision program, can I take a gap year?
Typically, the answer is “yes”. But if you are heading to William & Mary, for instance, the answer would be “no”.
A gap year experience might just be the ideal bridge between high school and college for you. With careful planning and a little research, you can be sure you don’t miss any opportunities that are at your fingertips, and you aren’t surprised late in the game by an unexpected restriction!