Many of the students who work with us are incredibly motivated, and have spent their entire young adult lives working as hard, if not harder, than their adult counterparts. For these students, a gap year can be a chance to recharge, take life a little less seriously, and re-engage with activities for the fun and passion of it, without the pressure of college admissions. It can also be a brilliant strategy for career advancement; spending a year gaining experience at a job or internship you wouldn’t otherwise have had time for, or even starting your own business.

A gap year isn’t right for everyone. For those who know exactly what they want to do (and always have) and want to move on to graduate school as soon as possible, taking a year off can seem like nothing more than a waste of time and money. This is especially true of students who plan on graduating early, by using credits from AP/IB, taking extra classes every semester, or both.

Many students need to take a gap year in order to afford college. Contrary to popular belief, competitive private colleges are often more affordable than public state universities once financial aid is taken into consideration. However, it can be difficult even with a “full ride” to afford the textbooks, plane tickets, and (often) winter clothes you need, or even the lost income of three or four years not spent working full time. As one gap year can quickly turn into two or more, we recommend applying to colleges each year. The financial aid packages you are offered or are able to negotiate to can vary dramatically year to year and from college to college, so never make assumptions about your ability to afford college.

For students who didn’t necessarily feel ready to apply to college their senior year, or didn’t get the result they wanted, a gap year can be a great way to gain relevant experience, study, and give it another shot. In Japan, where the college entrance exam structure is rigid and extremely competitive, many students fail and must retake the exam in a year. These students set adrift to study outside of the school system are colloquially called ronin, the word for a wandering samurai with no master.

If you’re happy with the school you’ve chosen, but decide to defer for a year, a gap year can just be an opportunity to do something different than school. The beauty of a gap year is that it doesn’t have a set structure. Some students try to start their own businesses, travel, write a novel, or just sit back and make their way through their to-be-read piles. When you have all the time in the world, you can really discover what you love outside of the parameters of a traditional school environment.

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