Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?

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Our counselors answered:

Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

Taking a Gap Year

Taking a year off between high school and college could be an intelligent decision. The student would have time to become more mature and might have a better idea of the study direction he/she would like to pursue and the kind of school that would be a good "fit". During that year there would be a chance to earn money to help with college expenses. Another advantage to a gap year would be the possibility for the student to participate in a volunteer experience domestically or in another country for an extended period, to focus on learning a foreign language, or otherwise to broaden his/her personal experience. There should be a "plan", though. Taking the year off to just hang around the house playing computer games is not a legitimate plan!

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

GAP Year

A well utilized and spent GAP year can be a wonderful opportunity for a student to mature and explore his/her options. However, before you are off on your year of exploration or social service or work experience or whatever your well-laid plans might be, apply to college. Yes, while you are still in high school and you have the support of your guidance counselor and the resources of the school at your disposal, apply to college. You can always request a deferment from your college of choice after you have been accepted--and you may decide that you want to take that GAP year at a later date and start college in the Fall after all.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

for what purpose?

if you are missionary and you must serve the church of your choice for one year, it is not a bad idea of taking a year off before college. if you are simply wanting to take a year off for emotional reasons or health reason, then you better do so withou hesitation. in general, students do not take a year off to save money. you may not return to college as you expected the second year. a lot of things can happen in between.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Time Off

It is certainly not uncommon for students to wait a year before starting college. Depending on the situation, some may do it for financial reasons, others because they just aren't ready developmentally, or family circumstances prevent attending right away. Some students may apply and then request to defer their admission for a year. Others may use the year off to explore an interest/passion, maybe through a Gap Year program. There is no rule about when you must begin college, so figure out what makes sense for you and trust your decision.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

Gap years are becoming increasingly more popular

More and more students are opting for a "gap year" between high school and college. Taking a year off to work and save money, travel, intern, or complete community service, can be beneficial in helping a student mature, gain a better sense of career options and a more global persepective on life and work. A year off is a great option for a student who is movitvated and determined to go to college, but wants or needs more time before college starts. There are multiple companies that help to organize gap years. Just to name a few... I would also look and see if any of the local high schools near you offer gap year fairs, where you can speak to representatives from mutliple programs.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?

Sure! Unless you are headed for Yale. I met with a counselor at Yale in the spring and asked about their gap year policy. In return, I was met with horror at the suggestion. In her words, “We only want the top students.” Since when did a student who has an interest in the world and life and something other than the classroom become something less than a “top student?” There are wonderful opportunities out there for students who want a break to give them perspective on their challenges (personal and otherwise), explore their interests, and learn more about themselves before jumping into their studies in a more directed and meaningful way. Community service in the U.S. or abroad; wilderness exploration; academic-subject focused; travel; work; and many more opportunities for personal, spiritual, intellectual, and social growth are available to students who seek a way of moving forward that is meaningful to them and not to an institution. I worked with a student once who came to my office mid-senior year of high school. He told me that he would like a deferral so he could backpack around Europe for a year. This student had straight As in a strong college program and outstanding SATs. He was admissible just about everywhere. Now, after some conversation, I discovered that his girlfriend had just dumped him. Basically his desire was to escape the possibility of running into her. I told him to go for it. “It will be the best learning experience you’ve ever had, and you will no doubt encounter many more girls who will get your mind off of her. Just don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. And keep in touch.” So off to Europe he went. No overly scheduled first-year experience programs desperate for his attention and making him nuts. No confusing campus social interaction. No academic pressure cooker. And what an experience he had. Great kid. Great success. Why not?

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Gap year

Yes! In England it is part of one's education to take a year off between high school and university. Volunteer, work, travel. Is there a huge rush to get to college? No. You do go through the regular application process and then defer for a year at the college of your choice. If you need financial aid, it is a great idea to join Americorps for a year. For that year of service you will receive $4800.00 for each year you go to college. If you choose a college that matches the Americorps gift, you will get $9600.00 per year for 4 years of college! Check out the opportunities at

Cheryl Millington

Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?

If you're not quite ready for college taking a year off or gap year might be a good option for you. University grads who took a break after high school earned 8% over their peers who went directly to university. The wage premiums for delayers who completed multiple degrees are higher still – 10% more for non-university grads and 13% more for those who graduated from university. However, in order to earn more than - or even as much as - traditional university graduates, delayers had to be employed. University graduates who took a break and not work earned 20% less than those who went straight from high school to university. So if you’re in high school and considering a gap year, don’t go travelling in Europe but get a job. If you don't work then you may find your earning potential lower than your peers. Think about your options very carefully.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?

Taking a year off can be a great idea, but to maximize its value you should have a plan in mind. With college costs being as high as they are, there is no real value in going simply because it seems to be the next logical step after high school. Consequently, putting it off while you try and get a better sense of where it fits into your future can be a good thing--but don’t waste the year. There are a growing number of formalized programs for students looking to take a "Gap Year," but you can also make your own plan—whether it be travelling or a focused year of working, an experience that will do much to develop maturity, a broader perspective, and a sense of responsibility. None of it will hurt in the college sweepstakes. The admissions office will look at all you have done—in school and out—as they consider what you can bring to their community.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?

Some should, most shouldn't. There are too many variables for a detailed answer.