How To Take A Gap Year

How To Take A Gap Year

Gap years—taking a full year or semester of learning experiences prior to college—are growing in popularity.

Recent research found that 20% of students took a gap year for 2020-2021, compared to just 3% in 2018. That’s in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when colleges shut down or shifted to virtual learning environments allowing many students to defer their enrollment and take a gap year.

US News recently spoke to experts on what a gap year entails, and how students can effectively spend their time before starting college.


Students choose to take a gap year for a variety of reasons. Some of the top reasons include taking on a job or internship, or even traveling to find motivation and inspiration.

“The best gap years tend to be the ones that push students to think about who they are and their role in the world,” says Joe O’Shea, associate provost and dean of undergraduate studies at Florida State University and author of Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs.

Gap years provide a “natural break” between high school and college. O’Shea says the time before college is an ideal opportunity to “pause and reflect.”

“Often you see students who struggle in higher education because they don’t have a sense of purpose and direction,” O’Shea says. “Gap years – because they give students a broader sense of the world and their place in it and how they can contribute – help to supply and empower students with the kind of motivation and purpose that can animate their entire college experience.”


If you’re considering a gap year, it may be wise to hold off on disclosing your gap year plans until after you’ve been accepted at a college or university. While it’s rare for a school to deny your gap year request, some schools have policies regarding how you spend your gap year.

“We definitely tell them this is not something you want to advertise at the time that you’re applying, because that’s not going to make you a more attractive candidate,” Colleen Paparella, founder of DC College Counseling, says. “Not to say they won’t get in, but it’s just going to make things more difficult.”

Paparella says it’s best to be flexible on your gap year plans and to wait until you’re absolutely certain about taking a gap year to fill out any required school forms.

“Somebody who feels like a gap year is a great idea in September of their senior year might feel very differently eight months later,” she says. “We say just keep your options open. Don’t disclose that now, and when you’re sure you want to do it and you have schools you’ve been admitted to, you can go ahead and ask for a gap year.”

Sources: US News, Foundry10

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