Taking a gap year in the middle of getting your degree can seem a bit daunting. You might be worried it could set you behind compared to your friends and other students. However, the benefits of taking a gap year when you need it most, far outweigh the downsides.
Let’s get into things! We will talk you through the possible gains and the process of asking your college for a deferral, before handing you some expert tips for a seamless transition as you go back to college after taking a step back for a year.
What 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. Gap years can be taken for varying durations and at any stage, whether that is right after high school, after college or during college.
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.
Why would you take a gap year during college?
Students often take a gap year right after high school, but this is not necessarily the right time for everyone. Maybe you were too excited to get started with college, your budget didn’t allow for it at the time or you simply weren’t aware it was an option.
Taking a gap in the middle of college is a great way to catch up with your thoughts and reflect on your academic and professional goals. It gives you time to rethink your major, gain new life skills, get into a competitive internship or just focus on yourself for a little while.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many benefits of taking a gap year, you can read all about them in this blog post!
How to take a gap year in college?
Step 1 - Do your research
Most colleges support deferrals for taking a gap year because statistics show gap year students come back more mature and driven. To make sure the college you're going to does too, 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.
If you are on a grant or scholarship, check with the institution or third party if it will carry over to the next year.
Step 2 - Choose how you want to spend your gap year
Once you know your college supports gap year deferrals, you can get planning! The options for a gap year are endless, so you will be spoiled for choice.
Do you want to spend part of your year gaining work experience, teaching abroad, volunteering, doing an internship, or travelling on a gap year program? Do you want to take a break for a full year, or is a single semester enough for you? And what is your budget? Consider all the possibilities and discuss them with your family or a gap year advisor to get more clarity.
Not quite sure what you want to do yet? Get inspired by these epic gap year ideas!
Step 3 - Request a deferral
Once you know what you want to do during your gap year, you can contact your college and ask them 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. The deferral policy of your college should mention who you have to get in touch with. Usually, you will also have to fill in a deferral form to confirm everything in writing.
Step 4 - Apply for a gap year program
Many gap year students choose to spend at least part of their gap year traveling abroad to experience new cultures, volunteer for animal rescue and community projects, learn a new language or go on an epic adventure. A gap year program does just that.
There are many options to choose from, from a nearby surf centered program in Hawaii or a language immersion program in Central America to an extensive backpacking trip through Southeast Asia or hike-heavy program in Nepal!
Step 5 - Earn college credits on your gap year
Taking a gap year doesn’t mean you have to put your college efforts completely on hold. You can actually travel on a gap year program with Pacific Discovery and earn college credit to go towards further study at the same time! We have partnerships with two educational institutions, offering students an excellent option to continue their study on their travels.
3 tips for going back to college after a gap year
1. Keep on traveling while in college
Starting college again doesn’t mean that you have to stop traveling until you finish your education. If you enjoyed it, why should you? When you go back to spending a lot of your time in the library or behind the computer screen, it’s good to plan yourself a little treat for the breaks. Pacific Discovery offers some epic 4 and 6 week Summer Programs that take you on adventures in Hawaii, Thailand and Costa Rica just to name a few.
2. Apply your new interests to your college experience
College students often discover new interests and passions during their gap year. Rather than suppressing these new interests, you can actually connect the dots in college and choose courses that deepen these interests or integrate them into your spare time routine. You will be a lot more engaged in your classes and the entire college experience if you spend your time doing something you really enjoy.
3. Set up some buffer time before going back to college
Most students want to do it all during a gap year and don’t consider taking some time off right before going back to university. However, you’ve had a lot of new experiences over the past year or semester. Take a bit of time right before returning to school to reflect on your experiences, process what you have learned and what’s next.
It’s also healthy to have some time to do entirely nothing, to spend some time with your family and friends and to simply get your stuff together before moving into your dorm room again.