To Gap Year or Not?

Parents may not like it, but some students just are not ready for college immediately after high school.  You may want to travel the world, volunteer for your favorite non-profit or save up some extra cash so you have one less thing to stress out about.  Whatever the reason, many students are deciding to take a gap year, or a deferred year, between high school and college.  Like everything with the college selection process, becoming a “gapper” takes some careful thought and consideration.  Here are some things to look out for:

–       Does the college or university you have been admitted to (or would like to be admitted to) allow students to take a gap year?  Make sure you call and find out your school’s specific gap year policy.  Do they want you to be in a formal program?  Do you need to tell them in writing?

–       If you plan to just stick close to home and take a few community college courses, make sure you find out if your school will allow you to transfer those courses in.  Some schools will limit the amount of college credit you can bringin  and still be considered a first-year student.  In other words, they may want to consider you a transfer student if you try and bring in a full load.

–       How will deferring affect your financial aid?  Will you need to do the financial aid application process again?  Are there other financial benefits for you and your family if you decide to take a gap year?

So Many Programs, So Little Time

Once you get those details worked out, now comes the fun part, what will you do with your gap year?  There are hundreds of programs out there, so you should narrow them down much like you did when you were selecting what colleges you applied to.  What are your goals?  Do you want to be immersed in a certain culture or do you want to see as much of the world as possible?  Do you have a favorite non-profit you want to work for?  Are there certain skills you think you need to work on?  Do you want to gain some job experience that will help you decide on a major?

The Post Graduate Year

Some students may decide to take a gap year to improve their high school academic transcript in order to continue with the college application process.  This is often called a Post Graduate Year and some private day and boarding schools offer academic based gap year programs to help boost your academic record.  This approach is often taken if you did not get into the college of your choice or if you want to put the college application process on hold until you can fix a few mishaps on your academic record.  I highly recommend that you discuss this option with the colleges and universities you are thinking of applying to in order to see if a Post Graduate Year would be beneficial and what specific areas you may need to work on.

The Gapper Life

Becoming a “gapper” can be a life changing experience.  It can certainly help you narrow down your interest before you enter college and have to decide on a college major.  It also may just make you a better, more well-rounded person along the way!

Katherine Price

Educational Consultant

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Published by Mark Montgomery

Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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  1. Gap years are very much a rite of passage in the UK for students taking a year between high school and college, and colleges and businesses are seeing the benefit of a well structured gap year as a positive thing. Also, there are a whole wealth of opportunities out there with different organisations offering different things, from volunteering, to expeditions to learning a skill. A good place to look at the range of options out there is the Year Out Group –

    For anyone thinking of volunteering, it is important to research the options. There are some great projects out there, but there are also many which aren’t all that worthwhile. The website Ethical Volunteering – – gives some guidance as to the sort of questions you should ask any organisation about their projects.

    Good luck!

  2. We suggest you ask to speak to some past volunteers who have been on the project you are interested in joining – hear about their experience first hand. We also recommend who have over 35 member organisations all following a code of conduct for gap years. Africa & Asia Venture ( are a founding member. If you want some gap year advice we are always on the end of the phone +44 (0) 1380 729009 or email

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