It’s mid-year senior year and you feel like the hamster who can’t escape the exercise wheel. You’re left questioning why you submitted even one, let alone 6 college applications. You’re ready to throw in the proverbial towel. Wait! Hit Pause! Rest and respite of a Gap Year (or even as little as a semester) may offer not only the much-needed break but an opportunity to grow and be ready for college when the time comes.
Popular and widely accepted in Europe, this trend is now growing exponentially in the US. The first Gap Year Fair, illuminating opportunities for personal growth, work, and fulfillment, took place in 2007 and has expanded tremendously.
5 Steps to a Gap Year
- Apply to College Now. You don’t want to spend your Gap Year completing the myriad of requirements for college applications. Do it during your senior year when your peers do. Once admitted, most colleges allow accepted students to “defer” their enrollment for a year; some even permit two years. Check with the schools.
- Do Your Homework. Popping up throughout the US are organizations whose mission is to connect you with the best-fit Gap Year opportunity either in the US or abroad. Gap Year Fairs, like college fairs, offer an opportunity to gather a lot of information in one place and get your questions answered. USA Gap Year Fairs hosts fairs on the coasts and a few other major cities during the winter. If the location isn’t convenient for you, here is a starting list of organizations to check out. Costs vary widely. Some programs allow you to trade work, hard work, for room and board.
- Let the College Know. You must let the college know, in writing, that you are requesting to defer your admission for a year or even just a semester. Consider that it might be difficult to take only a semester and enter college when there are few “new” students starting on campus mid-year. In most cases, colleges will grant you the time off and even hold your scholarships for you, if possible.
- Complete the FAFSA – again. While you are away don’t forget you will once again need to complete the FAFSA in October to ensure you have aid in place when you return to school.
- Journal, Blog – Reflect! Don’t look at your time off school as a vacation, but a time for introspection. Consider your experiences and how they relate to your future education and more importantly your career. Have you changed? Do you need to alter the course you were planning?
The majority of students who pursued a Gap Year found it either changed their college and career direction or help solidify it.