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Is a Gap Year right for you?

by Kerry Lynch
August 17th, 2020

Sheepherding in Australia, anyone? A gap year is typically an academic year break filled with experiential learning between secondary school and higher education. It used to be that gap years often focused around volunteer opportunities in far and distant lands but in the uncertain age of COVID, is the gap year doomed? We say no and we believe it is still something to consider for your post-high school future.

There is one thing that you need to start with – planning! Many colleges have limited numbers of deferrals so if you hope to apply to both college and gap year programs in your senior year and try to defer to your top choice school, then that picture should be completely illustrated by the time you are sending off your applications. It is always best to ask for the deferral when you have a plan, not just because you decided to take a gap year at the last minute. Another approach is to spend your senior year planning your gap year and then apply to colleges while you are participating in your gap year experience. This is a good strategy if you know your application needs strengthening.

A gap year does not have to be particularly glamorous, travel-specific, or even volunteer centered to be meaningful and the right path for you. In terms of college admissions, it just has to be valuable to you in a way that you can communicate to others. Here are some examples of substantive gap year plans:

  • Volunteer for a faith-based service experience in the US or abroad
  • Stay home and work in the family business (especially if you have not already)
  • Stay home, work part-time and finish up a project you started in high school (writing a novel, writing a musical score, a visual art project)
  • Travel to follow your passion – maybe you want to learn a new language, work for environmental or political causes

Gap years are about exercising your learning muscle – your brain. If you start with a plan, the personal growth will be amazing. For all kinds of information and ideas on gap years, check out the Gap Year Association website for a wide range of advice and resources.

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