The gap year is gaining momentum in the United States, although students in the UK and Australia have known about it for decades. So what’s taken us so long to figure it out? It’s probably because we’re programmed to think that if we don’t start college right after we graduate high school, our chances of earning a degree diminish. Not so. By taking a gap year before college to explore interests outside of the classroom, you can actually increase your chances of discovering what it is that you really want to do in life and then pursue your college education accordingly.
Of course, a gap year doesn’t mean spending twelve months contemplating your world view from a hammock. It means getting out there and doing something of value, like participating in community service, conducting research, or studying abroad. In fact, choosing how to spend your gap year can take on as much importance as figuring out where you’ll spend the following four years. Consider some of these tips as you decide whether a gap year is right for you:
- The gap year should not be an excuse to procrastinate from applying to college. You should still continue with the entire college admission process, then defer admission for a year.
- Many colleges and universities are really taken by the idea of a gap year. In fact, some are even encouraging it: Princeton University has established its own tuition-free “bridge year” program involving a public service project abroad that is completed before enrollment.
- By taking a gap year, you might find that declaring a major is an easier decision now that you’ve found a discipline or field that you’d really like to pursue. This could actually save you time and money in the long run-it’s not uncommon for students who switch majors to have to spend an extra semester or two in school to complete their degree.
- A gap year program will still cost you money for travel, lodging, and other incidental fees, but the price is still thousands of dollars less than a year’s tuition at a private college.
- Did you get rejected by your dream school? Spend your gap year taking classes abroad, then reapply and show off your academic enrichment. For some students, it has resulted in an acceptance letter the second time around.
- Although there hasn’t yet been any formal research to prove it, MSNBC has reported that colleges around the country find that their accepted students are indeed following through with their college plans after returning from gap year programs. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/24260521/
Remember, the “gap” in gap year refers only to the gap in your formal education. If you choose wisely, your gap year program will provide you with an experience above and beyond anything you would learn in the classroom. A successful gap year should leave you refreshed, inspired, and better prepared for four years of college.