By the time you graduate from high school, you have spent an astonishing amount of time in the classroom and even more time studying and doing homework after school hours. No wonder that taking a gap year between high school and college is becoming an increasingly popular decision. But did you know that universities are also actively encouraging students to take a gap year?
We’ll tell you all about it, hold on tight! We will walk you through the possible gains and the process of asking your college for a deferral, as well as the process of picking the right gap year program and applying for one.
Wat is a gap year?
A gap year is a semester or year of experiential learning. Students will take a break from studying for a certain amount of time to pursue their other interests, dreams and passions. During this time, they learn more about themselves, their ambitions and the world around them.
There is no one right way to spend a gap year, it’s totally up to you! Some students want to earn a bit of money on an internship or work experience, others wish to discover new cultures and do volunteer work on a gap year program abroad.
Top benefits of taking a gap year right after high school
1. You will perform better in college
Gap year graduates tend to have higher GPA’s than students who did not take a gap year, and they tend to graduate faster than the national average. This is not that surprising since gap year students have had more time to learn about their potential interests, meaning they are more likely to find a major that truly interests them. One study mentions that a staggering 60% of students felt that their gap year influenced their major.
2. You can avoid an academic burnout
By the end of high school, you have spent most of your life behind a desk in a classroom, focusing on getting good grades and taking up extracurricular activities to impress potential colleges. As this is the first time in your life that you are in the position to take a break and take the pressure off yourself, why not do just that? You will be able to focus on yourself, avoid the danger of an academic burnout, and get back to college refreshed and refocused afterwards.
3. You will make new friends
You will have heaps of opportunities to meet new people and create lasting friendships during your gap year. If you choose to volunteer or live abroad for a while, you could gain friends from all over the world, and they will be stoked to offer you a couch to sleep on next time you want to visit.
If you choose to go on a gap semester program with an organization, you will spend an intense and exciting three months with a group of likeminded people and grow close bonds. Good friendships like these are hard to come by and should not be underrated.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many benefits of taking a gap year that we decided to write an entire article about them!
How do colleges view a gap year?
You might have been told that taking a gap year could have a negative effect on your future, or at the very least on your admission into college. We’d like to put that misconception to rest once and for all because, guess what, most colleges absolutely love it when students go on a gap year before they start college, and often encourage it!
Research shows that gap year students come back more mature, driven and prepared, so it’s really a win-win situation. Gap year students have also developed new skills, and statistics prove that they tend to perform better academically. Harvard University even attributes their 98% graduation rate to the fact that so many of their students take time off before or during college.
To make sure the college you're going to encourages deferrals as well, check out their gap year policy. The Gap Year Association keeps a record of the deferral policies of most universities in the United States to make things easy for you.
How to get a college deferral?
1. Look up the college deferral policy
Most colleges allow and even encourage gap years, but some don’t allow deferment and it’s best to know before applying. If you already have a preferred college in mind, have a look on their website to see what their gap year policy is, or check out a comprehensive list of American colleges and their deferral policies here.
If you can’t find any information online, the best plan of attack is to contact the admissions office of this college and just ask, framing it as a hypothetical question.
2. Apply to college
Just apply to colleges during senior year of high school, as if you weren’t planning on taking a gap year. You will have to go through the entire college application process like every other high schooler, and keep your fingers crossed you will get accepted to your dream college. Once you get in, you will have to pay the deposit to secure your space.
3. Request a deferral
Contact the college admissions office at your chosen college and ask for a deferral. A deferral is an agreement that the college will hold a spot for you, so you can come back after the agreed-upon timeline. Usually, you will also have to fill in a deferral form to confirm everything in writing.
How to take a gap year after high school?
1. Reflect and think about your goals for the year
It all starts with knowing what you want to get out of taking a gap year. So take time to reflect about your reasons for taking a gap year and the best timing for it.
2. Talk to your family and friends
Your friends and family know you better than anyone else, and they might be able to give you insight and help you figure out what gap year program is best suited for you. Your parents might also be involved in paying for college and/or your gap year, so include them in the conversation and help them understand why this is the best path for you.
3. Research programs
There are many ways to spend your gap year, but gap year programs are one of the most popular choices. It’s not hard to see why! Students get to travel and volunteer abroad, while being in the safe hands of an experienced instructor that handles all the logistics for them. Gap year organizations like Pacific Discovery also have some long-standing community partners in place, making sure students get a unique experience and really immerse themselves in the local culture.
Do some research into the different gap year programs available and find the one that matches your goals the most. Pacific Discovery’s admissions team is always there to help students out and use their knowledge of the destinations and activities to find the perfect fit for them. When you are ready to sign up for this great adventure, begin an application here.
4. Prepare for the program
Once you have applied for a gap year program, Pacific Discovery will give you loads of information on how to prepare for the program. When to get your passport sorted, visit a health care professional and book your flights, just to name a few. You can also read books and watch movies that are set in your destination in order to mentally prepare, understand the culture better, and get excited of course!
How to pick a gap year program?
Pacific Discovery offers a big range of gap year programs for high school graduates. We like to give every type of student a great option, which is why we have such a big diversity of destinations and activities.
The sun seeker can spend a gap semester by the beach in Hawaii or Fiji, surrounded by palm trees. The outdoor enthusiast can go on some epic hikes through the Himalayas in Nepal. The animal lover can volunteer at an animal rescue center in Costa Rica or Thailand. And the thrill seeker can learn to scuba dive and go on a multi-day rafting journey in Central America. The list goes on, just have a look at the program overview and check out the itineraries to decide which one suits you best.
Or better yet, contact us for more information. Our admissions team knows the ins and outs of each and every program, and they know how to find the right program match for every student. They would love to know more about your interests and goals for your gap year, and can advise you on the program that would suit you best. No strings attached!