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Should You Take a Gap Year After High School?

 

FIRST, WHAT IS A GAP YEAR?

You’ve likely heard the term “gap year” before. But what many people don’t understand is that a gap year shouldn’t be treated as a break. Instead, a gap year is a year between high school and college in which you gain experiences that are unique to this time in your life, that will help you decide on a major and/or career path, or that help you prepare for college financially or personally.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to different gap year programs and scholarships.

 

BENEFITS OF A GAP YEAR

  • Get personalized college and career mentorship.

    This is a great time to learn how your strengths and weaknesses work with different majors and career paths and work on the skills necessary for the paths that interest you most.

    Meeting with a career and/or academic advisor, something you may not have had time or energy for during your senior year of high school, is a helpful way to spend part of your gap year. You’ll emerge better prepared for the university experience.

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  • Improve your college options.

    Gap years are so common today that they’re unsurprising to college admissions committees, and can often even work in your favor, since you’ll have more experience and a greater sense of purpose when you enter college. Additionally, you’ll have more time to work on your applications and hit your score goals on the ACT and/or SAT.

  • Take advantage of experiences that may be unavailable to you later in life.

    Examples of experiences unique to this time in your life are living abroad and studying a foreign language or volunteering full-time with an organization that supports a cause you’re passionate about. While it’s possible to find time for these experiences later in life, this may be the most convenient time to take advantage of them.

  • You’ll have more time to prepare for college financially.

    Whether you’re working in a field you’re considering for a future career or working a part-time job just to save for college, a gap year can give you the time you need to get your finances in order.

  • Get experience in fields that interest you.

    Before you make the commitment of choosing a major, career, or graduate degree, take time during your gap year to experience the environments of different careers and educational paths that interest you. You can take community college classes that coincide with majors you’re considering (and maybe even get some college credit!) or get internships or volunteer experiences in fields you want to learn more about. This could look like working as a clerk at a law office, a volunteer at an animal hospital, or a medical scribe.

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Boost includes 3 experiential learning projects—done with real companies—to give students hands-on experience in their field.

These allow students to earn more about a possible path by doing career-relevant work, and get a chance to develop critical professional skills such as time management and teamwork.

Students will participate in both individual and group projects, as well as complete one project directly with a partner company.

SO, SHOULD YOU TAKE A GAP YEAR AFTER HIGH SCHOOL?

Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether or not a gap year is right for you:

  • Will taking a gap year bring me closer to my goals?
  • Do I have a set plan for what to do during my gap year?
  • If I’ve already been accepted by a college, will my university allow me to defer, and if not, am I willing to apply to college again?

If you answered yes to the above questions, a gap year may be a useful way to spend the year after high school.

HOW TO TAKE A GAP YEAR

First, make sure you have a plan. Don’t lose momentum; a gap year should be a time to reflect, learn, and prepare for college. Don’t use it as an excuse to take a break.

Second, if you’ve already applied to and been accepted by universities when you make the decision to take a gap year, check out each school’s deferment policies. It’s common for universities to allow students to defer for a year without too much hassle. If your university doesn’t allow you to defer, consider turning down your acceptance and re-applying to schools during your gap year. There’s a good chance you’ll have more options once you have more experience under your belt. 

Third, if you’ve already been offered financial aid through the schools to which you’ve applied, check in with the financial aid offices to see if your aid can be deferred along with your admission. Unfortunately, you can’t defer your federal student loans. If you submit the FAFSA before you decide to take a gap year, you’ll need to re-submit the following year. Keep in mind that if you work and save money for college during your gap year, the amount of financial aid you’re awarded may change.