What is a gap year and should you take one? – Forbes Advisor

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If you’re graduating from high school this year but don’t think it’s the right time to start college, you’re part of a growing trend. The Higher Education Research Institute reported that about 3% of all high school graduates take a gap year before going to college, according to a 2018 survey. the time you take before enrolling in college – you can travel the world, volunteer, or gain work experience.

There is evidence that student interest in gap years has increased due to the coronavirus pandemic. With many colleges still using remote or hybrid models, many students choose to delay registration and instead focus on personal or professional development.

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What is a gap year?

The majority of high school graduates heading to college start school right away. However, an increasing number of students are opting for a school break in the form of a gap year.

A gap year gives you time to pursue other goals before returning to the formal school structure. This can be an attractive option in the following scenarios:

  • You worry about the pandemic. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, you may be worried about how your intended college is handling safety measures. Or, you may want to delay starting school so you can get the full college experience once the pandemic is under control.
  • You want to boost your savings. If you want to avoid student loan debt If possible, taking a gap year can help you find a job and save money. By putting your income aside, you can increase your college fund and reduce the need for loans.
  • You feel exhausted. With standardized tests, college admissions essays, and year-end requirements, your senior year of high school can be exhausting. If you feel exhausted, take some time before registration might be a smart idea. You’ll have time to rest and recuperate so you can head to college refreshed and ready to learn.
  • You want to travel. The period before you start university is the ideal time to travel. it is one of the most free periods of your life. You have relatively few responsibilities, so you can pack your bags and go abroad for weeks or even months, if you have the funds.
  • You want to try a certain area. If you are unsure which major to choose, a gap year can be helpful. This gives you the chance to work or volunteer in your chosen field. This experience can be invaluable; you can find out if this career path is right for you before you start paying tuition.

How Gap Years Affect College Acceptance and Financial Aid

When you share your plan to take a gap year with family, high school counselors, or teachers, a common concern is that you won’t go to college or it will affect your admission. However, these are common misconceptions; According to a report by the Gap Year Association, 90% of gap year students return to college within the year, and many schools have formal admission deferral programs.

For example, Harvard University encourages students to take a gap year. Its career services department will even meet with students to discuss their options and make plans for the gap year. There is also the Harvard Gap Year Society, an on-campus organization that connects current Harvard students who have completed gap years with incoming students who are absent from school.

Gap Years and Enrollment

If a college has accepted you as an incoming student, you can usually defer enrollment for a semester or an entire academic year. You may be required to pay a deposit and submit a written plan outlining how you will use the gap year. During the gap year, you generally cannot take university courses at another school, otherwise you will lose your place as a student.

Impact on Financial Aid

Although colleges often hold your place for a year, financial aid is handled differently. Since some scholarships and grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, you may need to forgo these forms of financial aid and reapply when you are ready to enroll.

If you have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as a high school student and decide to take a gap year, you will need to resubmit it before enrolling in college to qualify for federal financial aid, including student loans.

Advantages and disadvantages of taking a gap year

While a gap year may be beneficial for some students, it’s not a good idea for everyone. Here are some things to consider before making your decision:


  • You can gain valuable work experience. During a gap year, you can get full or part-time employment and gain experience. In college, this can give you an edge when competing for internships and other opportunities.
  • You can try some trades. A gap year gives you time to work in your chosen field before committing to a particular major and before spending money on related courses.
  • You can travel. If you decide to travel during your gap year, you can see landmarks from around the world, immerse yourself in other cultures, and develop your foreign language skills.

The inconvenients

  • It can be expensive. Depending on how you spend your gap year, it can get expensive. For example, traveling abroad can be expensive and you will still have to pay for your education when you return.
  • It may not add value. A gap year can be helpful, but only if you have a plan in place. Otherwise, you might end up spending your time on activities that don’t contribute to your goals.
  • It changes your academic calendar. While it may not affect you right now, keep in mind that a gap year will put you a year behind your classmates who enroll immediately. It might be difficult later on when they graduate from college while you’re still in school.

5 tips for taking a gap year

If you decide to take a year off after graduating from high school, here are some tips to help you plan.

1. Plan how to pay for your gap year experience

If you plan to delay registration, you may have additional expenses that you have not accounted for. You may need to pay for your room and meals, as well as transportation. If you plan to travel to see the world or do volunteer work, you’ll likely need to cover the cost of airfare, hotel stays, and other extras. These expenses can add up, so you need to create a budget and plan for how to pay for them.

Several options are available to you to finance your gap year:

  • Scholarships. Some organizations offer scholarships and grants to students planning gap years. You can use the scholarships to pay for a specific program or to offset your other expenses. Visit the Gap Year Association, EF gap year and go overseas to find potential opportunities.
  • 529 savings. If you have money set aside for your education in a 529 savings account, you may be able to use part of your account to cover some of the costs of your gap year. However, 529 plan funds can only be used to pay for formal gap year programs that allow you to earn academic credit.
  • Part-time jobs. Taking on a part-time job in high school and during the first part of your gap year can be a great way to gain work experience and build savings.

2. Divide the year into segments

To use a gap year wisely, you need to make a plan for how you will spend your time off from school. You may find it helpful to divide the year into segments or semesters to give you structure and timelines.

For example, this is one way to structure the gap year:

  • August 2021 to December 2021: Volunteer building houses in South America
  • January 2022 to May 2022: Internship in a local marketing company
  • June 2022 to August 2022: Summer job to save money
  • September 2022: start college

3. Speak to your college admissions office

Contact the admissions office of your chosen school to inform them of your plans and to inquire about their gap year policies. While some schools will hold your place for a year, others won’t, so it’s important to keep this in mind.

If your school allows you to defer registration, the admissions office may request a deposit and a written proposal on how you will spend the gap year. In your proposal, be as specific as possible about your plans. Highlight how the gap year will affect your personal and intellectual growth and how it relates to your chosen major.

4. Consider a structured gap year program

Although you can design your own gap year, you may find a structured gap year program more beneficial. Companies and universities create their own gap year programs. Depending on the program, you could spend weeks or months abroad, learn a new language, or complete a rigorous leadership skills program.

The Sabbatical Year Association and Outwards have several structured gap year options.

5. Look for volunteer opportunities

Volunteering can be a great way to expand your worldview and get out of your comfort zone. With gap year volunteer programs, you can build schools abroad, provide disaster relief in your own state, or help with animal conservation.

American Corps, CityYear, WWOOF and united planet are all resources for gap year volunteer opportunities.

Is a gap year right for me?

A gap year can be a chance to decompress after high school, gain real-world experience, and broaden your perspective. However, gap years are not a good fit for everyone. When deciding whether it makes sense to miss school, consider your goals, your budget, and your university’s admissions policy.

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