Ask An Expert: Should I Consider A Gap Year?

September 17, 2014

This week’s Wednesday expert advice about whether to take a gap year and how to approach it comes from Alex Ellison of Dunce.

 

Unfortunately, The Common Application labels Gap Years and other cool breaks in a student’s education “Educational Interruptions”. Aside for the somewhat negative ring this has, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a Gap Year, and in fact, the schools you’ve heard and the trend-setters in higher education actually encourage it. Check out: Harvard’sMiddlebury’s and Tufts’ takes on gap years.

The most common route to a Gap Year is to apply to both colleges and various Gap Year programs during your senior year. Some Gap Year deadlines are as early as winter, while others allow you to submit applications well into the spring. The benefit of applying to both simultaneously is that students keep several options open. Once they receive an acceptance letter from a University, they can request what’s called a deferment or deferral – a one-year allowance to go explore, learn, grow, and mature while holding your place at your college of choice. Here is a list of various schools’ deferment policies.

The less common but still completely feasible route to a Gap Year is to apply to only Gap Year Programs during your senior year. Guess what? You don’t actually have to go to college. You may find that a great Uncollege Gap Year is all you need to launch you into the stratosphere and give you the tools you need to make a killing (in happiness and money). But, if during your Gap Year program, you decide that you do, indeed, what to try your hand at this whole college thing, then you can absolutely send out applications during your Gap Year. I currently am working with a student doing just this. Let’s call her Molly….

Molly was a world-class skier who went to a specialty school so she could travel for races. Over the course of her Senior year, she vacillated between applying to college as a “skier” or a “normal” kid. She eventually went with the latter, but really, she isn’t normal. She has several talents and interests and wanted to break free of her lifelong identity as “skier”. In making this decision, she allowed herself to explore other things, travel and become fluent in French – she is anything but normal. However, since it took her quite a while to make this big decision, she went through her senior year without applying to schools or Gap Year programs. It wasn’t until the Spring, when her peers were getting acceptances, that she made the decision to look at Gap Year programs. She eventually landed on CIEE, a program that will allow her to live in Paris for a year, immerse her in the French language and culture, and make her a global leader. She is embarking in a few, short days, and then I will be supporting her as she completes her applications for places like Kenyon, Oberlin, Brown and Middlebury, to name a few. If all goes as she hopes, she’ll be stepping into one great school next fall – one that appreciates her love of adventure and hunger for learning.

In many ways, I think Molly, with her non-traditional high school background and “Educational Interruption”, is heads above her peers. She is more mature, more excited about learning (and did I mention life?) and will contribute a great deal to whatever school is lucky enough to have her.

Dunce is an alternative college counseling service. Its mantra is that the end-all be-all of high school isn’t about getting into the best college; it’s about finding your unique strengths, passions, and talents, and tapping into them and finding the post-high school experience that best fits you.

Last week's blog: How do I get started on my essays?!
Last week’s blog: How do I get started on my essays?!







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