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College Admissions: 3 Reasons To Take a Gap Year

Monday, February 16, 2015


A gap year can be a great opportunity for not only maturing, but doing serious good in the community. Americorps is one terrific option for graduating seniors. Photo: Americorps.

For more than a decade, taking a “Gap Year” between high school and college has been a popular option for European students. The time allows young adults to travel, explore their interests, mature and rejuvenate before attending college. Now, the idea is spreading in the US. The Ivy League and most competitive colleges encourage students to take a gap year. They believe that it increases a student’s focus and

maturity while broadening their perspectives. Students can either apply to college and then ask for a deferral if accepted, or wait and apply during their gap year. Princeton has even started a freshman internship abroad option as a structured gap program for accepted students.

There are many reasons to take a gap year; here are three central arguments:

1. De-Stress, Re-Energize

Kids today are asked to keep ridiculous schedules. A typical high school student on track to attend a competitive college is most likely attending school from 8am to 3pm, participating in sports or extra-curricular activities until 6pm, and then doing homework until midnight. Their weekends are filled with community service, sports playoffs, and academic decathlon competitions. By the time they graduate, they are EXHAUSTED. Let’s face it, “tired” is not the best way to go off to college. A year off provides relaxation, life experiences and generates a renewed enthusiasm for academia. Studies have shown that the parental fear that students won’t go on to college after a year off, is unfounded.

2. Maturity is Golden

Not everyone is ready for college at 18. Many students today have a great deal of parental oversight with dozens of texts and calls a day. They simply aren’t ready to be on their own yet, balancing academics and social activities while living independently. A year off to become self-reliant can be invaluable. Students who travel to Appalachia, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world benefit from understanding the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead.

3. Find a Focus--Build Your Resume

Many gap year itineraries include travel, community service or an internship. During this time, young adults are exposed to a variety of professions and potential passions. Many discover a love of teaching while helping in an inner city school; some unearth an interest in public health or medicine while assisting in a hospital, and still others a passion for environmental science while working on a farm or in a rain forest. For students who may have had a rough start to high school, this also gives them the benefit of an extra year of senior grades, if they wait to apply to colleges.

How to Plan a Gap Year

There are lots of resources for researching a gap year and program costs vary widely. Students may earn money during that year to put toward college with AmeriCorps, City Year or paid internships. Other highly structured programs with extensive travel, like Rustic Pathways or Where There Be Dragons can cost up to $40,000. Remember that whatever your budget, planning and structure is critical to having a happy and productive gap year. You need to start educating yourself on the options now if you are a senior in high school. Gap Year Fairs are a good place to begin exploring, but a private or school based counselor can be invaluable in recommending reputable and safe options based on past students.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, individual counseling for college-bound students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com


Related Slideshow: New England Colleges With the Best Undergraduate Teaching

U.S. News & World Report released a survey conducted in 2013 of college administrators on the best schools for undergraduate teaching. Several New England made their lists for best National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, and Regional Universities. See which schools made the lists in the slides below: 

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National Universities

9. Brown University

Providence, RI 
Students: 6,435
2013-14 Tuition: $45,612
Admissions: 9.6% Acceptance Rate
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National Universities

5. Yale University 

New Haven, CT
Students: 5,405
2013-14 Tuition: $44,000
Admissions: 7.0% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

National Universities

1. Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH
Students: 4,193
2013-14 Tuition: $46,752
Admissions: 9.8% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

National Liberal Arts Col

18. Mount Holyoke College

South Hadley, MA 
Students: 2,322
2013-14 Tuition: $41,456
Admissions: 42.1% Acceptance Rate
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Liberal Arts Colleges

9. Amherst College

Amherst, MA
Students: 1,817 
2013-14 Tuition: $46,574
Admissions: 13.0% Acceptance Rate
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Liberal Arts Colleges

5. Williams College

Williamstown, MA
Students: 2,052
2013-14 Tuition: $46,600
Admissions: 17.0% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Regional Univ. - North

4. Fairfield University

Fairfield, CT
Students: 3,879
2013-14 Tuition: $42,920
Admissions: 71.2% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Regional Univ. - North

2. Providence College

Providence, RI
Students: 3,810
2013-14 Tuition: $42,206
Admissions: 61.0%

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