Taking a gap year between high school and college is an option that more high school students are exploring.
While taking a gap year is beneficial to some students, it’s not the best choice for everybody. Consider these points about taking a gap year before you decide to take time off from your studies.
Financial Benefits of Taking Time Off
Tuition at a US college can put a dent in your wallet, so it’s no surprise that some students consider taking a gap year in order to save money for school.
If you are thinking of doing this, remember that this will be helpful only if you have a decent paying job (read: more than minimum wage) and are living at home where you don’t pay rent. With the right job and financial planning, however, working for a year can make a big financial difference.
In previous years, students have also waited for pending legislation that may offer them more money via Pell Grants.
Read the news and find out what student loan taxes and grants are currently like — if you are eligible and are planning to get financial aid for school, this increased funding may be worth the wait.
What to Do During Your Gap Year
If you think taking a gap year is right for you, you must decide what you will do in your year off from school.
If you have financial freedom, a gap year is the perfect time to participate in volunteer work abroad. There are many programs that allow you to travel and volunteer simultaneously.
However, if you hope to save money before heading back to school, getting a job is the obvious solution. For most students, this means finding something in their hometown, so they can continue to live rent-free at home.
If you will be working, consider participating in extracurricular activities. Constructive extracurricular activities for college will be fun for you and will look good to admissions counselors. Try taking a class or two at a local community college, or volunteering in your community.
Planning for After the Gap Year
If you decide on taking a gap year, figure out your post-gap-year plans sooner rather than later. It might seem silly to plan so far in advance, but you don’t want your gap year to become 10 years!
The easiest way to secure your future after taking a gap year is to apply to schools while in high school, and then defer enrollment at your chosen school. That means you put off enrollment for a specified period of time. The school has to approve your deferred enrollment, so you’ll have to explain why you want to defer admission and what you plan to do in the meantime.
While deferred enrollment is the most reliable option, some students may choose to wait to apply until they’ve completed high school and are already in their gap year.
This can make admissions difficult — you won’t have the same resources you had in high school, and colleges may question your decision to take a gap year. This is only advisable if you plan on doing something impressive with your gap year that will help your odds of admission.
Talk to Guidance and Admissions Counselors
When considering taking a gap year, one of the best things you can do is talk to your high school guidance counselor, as well as admissions counselors at the universities you are interested in attending. Counselors will be able to look at your individual case and advise you about whether taking a gap year is a good option for you.