Many of the students who work with us are incredibly motivated, and have spent their teen years working incredibly hard toward their goal of getting into their dream college. 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.
Usually, the majority of high school seniors are so eager to start the next chapter of their educational journey that they dive straight into college. However, this year, with the possibility of college classes remaining online for the fall and potentially even spring semesters, many more incoming college first years are considering taking a gap year.
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. One year of online school, in the grand scheme of things, is not very long. Plus, the sooner you start college, the sooner you finish. Think about what you want to get out of your college experience. If college for you is more about the credits than the social experience, then you probably shouldn’t take a gap year. Life, as we’ve all learned this year, can throw curve balls at any time. It may be wise for you to stay on course by matriculating in the fall. With classes online and no extracurriculars to distract you, you may even be able to take an extra course so that you actually get ahead rather than end up a full year behind your classmates.
However, there are many reasons to choose to take a gap year. The reasons are varied, but a few common reasons are saving money, a second chance at applying, and a desire to explore other interests or places in the world.
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, even with a “full ride” it can be difficult to afford the textbooks, plane tickets, and (often) winter clothes and other expenses you’ll need to cover, or even the lost income of three or four years not spent working full time. You can take this time to work remotely and save up money so that you don’t have to stress about your finances during your first year of college. If you take one or two gap years, but have not committed to a college, we recommend applying to colleges each year. The financial aid packages you are offered or are able to negotiate 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 academically qualified, are not emotionally mature enough to apply to college, or who didn’t get the college acceptances they were hoping for, a gap year can be a great way to give it another shot. Take this time to retake standardized tests, rewrite your personal statement, and apply to colleges that will be good fits for you.
One of the classic gap year experiences is travel. Whether it’s backpacking across Europe or hiking in the Andes, every year thousands of wide eyed students set out on the adventure of a lifetime before coming back to reality in the fall. However, this year traveling may not be an option. But there are still many opportunities for you to “find yourself” during your time off. You could start a small business, write a novel or screenplay, take online classes in subjects you won’t have time to learn in school, or intern remotely in a field you’re interested in. 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.
Whether you decide to take a gap year or not, this next chapter in your educational journey will be whatever you make of it! Perhaps online college will be the perfect transition into college-level work and set you up for three more years of success. Or maybe you’ll take a gap year and produce a mixtape that you would never have the time to do when balancing school and creative pursuits. Regardless, if you enter this next year with the same zeal and determination with which you tackled the past several years of school, you will be destined for success!