After years of extracurricular activities, volunteer work, honors papers, and AP credits, it can seem a little exhausting to find yourself at the beginning of four more years.
And while college is different in many ways from high school, some students still find they need a breather from the rigor of academic life.
In other words, a gap year.
I know this phrase can be a little off-putting, but stick with me here.
Gap years allow you to return to college with renewed focus. Contrary to common belief, most gap year students do return to school when their year is up. And when they do, they return with the independence and maturity necessary to navigate university life. Many colleges are even offering scholarships to gap year students now.
Additionally, taking a gap year can give you sufficient time to decide what life path to follow. A lot can change in a year. Taking some time off may help you decide on a major more easily.
Gap year students have the opportunity to break down the four walls of a classroom and see the world as a bigger place than they knew it was – and they may even make themselves more marketable to future employers who value independence and the ability to cope with complications.
Without a clear plan, gap years can become a time to binge on Netflix or flip burgers. This is obviously not what you want. If you are going to take a gap year, make sure you have a plan and are doing it for the right reasons – not just because you want to avoid schoolwork. Try to assess your goals and find ways to reach them, even if it’s something as simple as earning a bit of money or growing your independence.
Often it’s best to look for a volunteer or gap year organization that specializes in these sorts of things. Just make sure whatever organization you sign up for is credible!
Also, make sure you have something solid to come back to. Consider applying for college when you leave but deferring your enrollment. This will keep you from drifting.
Be warned that once all your friends leave for school, it will be tempting to regret your decision. Make sure you have some exciting opportunities lined up to circumvent that.
With proper planning, taking a gap year can change your life and make your college experience that much more fulfilling.
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A gap year occurs when a student takes an academic year off between high school graduation and his or her first year of college. Common reasons for taking time off before college include volunteer opportunities, work commitments and traveling, among many other endeavors and desires. Some students even take a year off simply to have a break from school and subsequently come to college refreshed.
Regardless of the reason for a gap year, students who do take this route must be prepared to appropriately justify this time off on college applications.
Here are a few tips in best presenting a gap year throughout your admissions process:
Thoroughly explain your choice
It is not necessarily bad to take a little bit of time away from school, but you need to be able to effectively argue for your choice. Prepare a statement explaining your year off — be specific about what you did, your reasoning behind it and why it was important to you.
If your religious traditions encourage a church mission, let your admissions officers know that your choice was a reflection of firmly held values. If you were offered a once-in-a-lifetime job or internship opportunity straight out of high school, explain how it helped confirm your college path and major selection. Whether you traveled, volunteered or worked over your gap year, reflect on why you chose to prioritize these activities over immediately attending college.
Discuss the benefits
Not every student benefits from a year off. However, carefully planned and productive gap years can be enriching and valuable experiences. Make a list of the benefits you gained as a result of your gap year. The gap may have provided a much needed break from a stressful high school experience, offered life experience that you would not have otherwise been able to attain or allowed you to gain much needed perspective on your life goals.
If asked, it is okay to admit you just needed a break — after all, you are human, not an academic machine. Recognizing and responding to your personal needs demonstrates responsibility and maturity — both of which are attractive qualities to admission officers.
Share your accomplishments
Your academics are not the only thing about you that would attract colleges and universities. Admissions committees want students who are well-rounded and who offer a unique perspective to their campus. As a volunteer, how many hours of community service did you complete? Who or what did you impact through your service? Were you given any awards or recognitions from your employer?
While backpacking across continents, did you reach any personal goals or learn a new language? Do not be afraid to place value on your achievements — no matter how big or small — even if they are not solely academic in nature.
While taking a gap year is not always the best choice for every student, this time off is becoming more and more popular and can certainly be valuable to students who use it appropriately. To ensure admission to your top colleges is not negatively impacted by your year away, use these tips to argue for the importance of your gap year, as well as why you are a better candidate for admission because of it.
Brenna Tonelli is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a technology platform for private academic tutoring and test prep designed to help students at all levels of education achieve academic excellence.
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brenna tonelli, college application, College choice, gap year, varsity tutors, COLLEGE CHOICE, VOICES FROM CAMPUS