Gap Year:  It’s Okay to Still Think About It

Decisions from universities are in and the collective sigh of relief can no doubt be heard through the

Decisions from universities are in and the collective sigh of relief can no doubt be heard through the world as students feel this massive weight lifted off their shoulders. College applications are behind them, the light at the end of the tunnel looms ahead. High school students see that finish line. What next? Closure to high school, memories those high school years, and moving on.

But what if there is that big question mark about why university now? Does it have to be right now, this Fall? What if a student is feeling burned out after the years of exams, extra curricular, resume building for university, and just that off balance feeling, can university wait? It most certainly can. Students can defer their decision.

While there is a Gap Year Signing Day on May 25th (similar to signing on the bottom line to commit to a university when playing sports, or the chance to commit to higher education), this is not a firm deadline, there will still be programs and options for Gap Years. The idea behind it… university and higher education can wait. Why rush life, my mother always said.

Here is what needs to get done.

  • Find out if the university has a policy on deferral. Some universities do not allow Gap Years (University of Washington for one, University of California and the Cal States as examples).
  • Also, it it important to check with each university about any scholarship, financial aid or merit aid and if those will still be valid if taking a deferral. Be sure to get all relevant and important information regarding deferral, scholarship information in writing. In most cases, students will have to put down a deposit to hold their place

Gap Year Research:

Planning a Gap Year is a wonderful time for self reflection. While planning for college is a great time for self reflection life, Gap Year Planning offers self reflection in a different manner. Asking these questions is helpful:

  • Am I ready for another four plus years of intense academics and activity? Or, do I need a break?
  • If a break is necessary, in my wildest dreams, what would I do?
  • Where in the world could I explore?
  • Is there something or someone I can help or assist, or something that would make the world  a better place?
  • What can I gain in life experience right now that I can’t get from university right now?

With Gap Year Fair season behind us, the website is still available. There are a lot of programs to peruse to see what might be suitable for an individual’s situation. In addition, The Gap Year Association is of great use, and has a variety of accredited programs.  

According to the NYU Steinhardt Master’s Degree Study in School Counseling  (seen on The Gap Year Fair website), taking a Gap Year results in positive outcomes. Examples include:

  • Increases in maturity, self confidence, communication skills
  • Increased knowledge in the surrounding world and greater understanding and respect of other cultures
  • Acquisition of skills for career success
  • Better preparation for college readiness

USA Gap Years has the complete list on their website, and is worth the look.


Biggest Question:  Will the Student Go Back to School

YES – and with greater focus, and most likey with greater ability to complete within four years and perhaps with a major in hand. According to studies, students returning to school after a Gap Year often obtain a higher GPA, greater academic focus as well as solid leadership characteristics.

Read an excellent report on The Gap Year Association here.


Who Helps Organize a Gap Year?

Of course, there is always the web. As always, this tool, filled with massive information at our fingertips filled with fabulous information. Though, it too can be  filled with landmines of misinformation. There are a variety of books on the subject as well that are worth the read (see resources on the World Student Support website). This is why it is important to find a professional well versed in Gap Years. If a student utilized an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC), that consultant may be equipped to assist with researching a Gap Program. However, there are Gap Year Specialists who know some very specialized programs that are not ‘nationally recognized’ names or the household names  in the industry. If this is what a student is interested in finding, then by all means, seek these professionals out.

Since most students will be taking a deferral from university, an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC) has experience in handling admissions and coaching students through deferrals, financial aid, and scholarships. It is really important to acquire this information accurately. In addition, some gap programs offer credit. Some universities are quite strict on how many, or even if the student can come away with any credits at all. This is really important to note, and an IEC is well versed in this area and how to discuss this with the student and what the student needs to know. Finally, if the student does choose to put off their application rather than making application to university, it is generally an IEC who has the best information on how to choose the university, guide the student through the  application process, essays, how to gather transcripts, set the the time-line while the student is ‘gapping’

Gap Year Consultants have often been in the Gap field; in other words, they have either taken Gap Years themselves, or even as consultants have taken the time to do an adult program, or perhaps shadow a program on their own. Thus, they have first hand knowledge of what programs offer and will find a good solid fit. They do thorough intake inventories similar to those of us as IECs accomplish. Gap Year Consultants also attend conferences to keep up with the industry standards as we do as IECs, they are up on travel safety, assist students on becoming safe and savvy travelers, and educate students on independent traveling. Gap Year professionals can explain expectations and outcomes of programs and programs, and what might be a good fit for a particular student, as well as why it is important to get out of a student’s comfort zone (which is what a Gap Year is often about).

A Gap Year is a rich and worthy way to spend a year. Research clearly supports this value added experience. University will be waiting upon returning from a Gap Year, and the student will be ready and willing to launch into academia life with keen interest.  There are professionals available for guidance in order to assist students on choosing a positive Gap path, and experience that will have lasting lifelong impact.



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