How to Apply to College After a Gap Year [2024 Guide]

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If you’re considering taking a gap year, it’s helpful to know how to apply to college after a gap year.

How to apply to college after a gap year

Taking a gap year can be beneficial in many ways when they’re well-planned. You can take a gap year after finishing high school or while you’re in college to give yourself time to refocus, explore new things, and build a stronger college application and resume.

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Before you begin a gap year, it can be helpful to create a plan for what you intend to do during your gap year and how you want to transition into college.

How to Apply to College After a Gap Year

Student preparing requirements for college after a gap year

A gap year is a period of time you can take off from schooling between high school and college or even during college.

Students take gap years for many reasons, and it’s often encouraged if you believe that a gap year will benefit you. There are several benefits to taking a gap year, such as time to refocus, ability to travel and experience new things, learn new skills, build your resume, or figure out what your academic and career interests are.

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If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, these are some tips that can help you navigate the process of how to apply for college after a gap year:

  • Check gap year policies of colleges you intend on applying to
  • Tell your guidance counselor or academic advisor you’re considering taking a gap year
  • Prepare any documents that may be requested for admissions­
  • Create a plan for what you intend to do during your gap year
  • Take note of college admissions deadlines if you plan on applying to college during your gap year

Many colleges will allow you to take a gap year after you’ve been accepted and have informed the school you plan on attending.

You can reach out to the admissions office to let them know you would like to take a gap year and why. Some colleges may not allow you to take a gap year prior to beginning your studies, so researching gap year policies is important.

You can also wait until you’ve begun your gap year to start applying for colleges. This can give you time to create a strong application and build your resume.

Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year

students who took a gap year going back to college

A gap year can be beneficial for many reasons, but it also comes with some disadvantages.

Some pros of taking a gap year before or during college include:

  • Time to work and save money for college
  • Time to gain life experiences and skills that may be useful in college
  • Time to figure out your academic and career interests
  • Time to build a stronger application and resume by working or volunteering
  • Time to learn how to become more independent

While some students prefer to jump right into college after high school, a gap year might be more ideal if you feel like you need some time away from academics before starting college.

Gap years aren’t for everyone. These are some disadvantages that may come with taking a gap year:

  • Can make you feel like you’re falling behind your peers.
  • Can be hard to transition back into a routine if your gap year lacks structure
  • May be difficult to obtain important documents requested for college admissions
  • Can be expensive if you plan on using your gap year to travel
  • Can be easy to lose interest in going back to school

If you’re considering taking a gap year, weighing out these pros and cons may help you figure out what works best for you. Some of the disadvantages of taking a gap year may be avoidable if you develop a solid plan for your gap year.

Gap Year Resources

Woman researching on gap year resources

There are many resources available for gap year programs that can give you some guidance. These resources may provide you with valuable information on what you can do during your gap year and how to transition into college after your sabbatical:

  • TeenLife: This organization offers a search database for various gap year programs that you can explore by field, location, start date, program length, cost, and more.
  • Gap Year Association: You can find accredited gap year programs and descriptions for each program as well as other information about gap year planning and college deferral policies.
  • Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE): This gap year resource provides a directory for different gap year programs abroad as well as studying, interning, and teaching abroad.
  • Student Conservation Association (SCA): This organization is dedicated to providing environmental conservation programs to youth and adults, which could be a great way to spend a gap year if you’re interested in conservation and environmental science.

Gap year programs may provide you with opportunities to learn, discover new interests, and gain life experiences that might help you in college and upon graduation.

What Is a Gap Year?

student returning to college from a gap year

A gap year is a break, typically 1 year or semester long, that you can take after graduating high school and before entering college. Gap years can also refer to taking time off from academics during your college career.

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A gap year may be used to simply take a break from school and enter college feeling refreshed. The extra time can also be used to gain experience by volunteering, working, traveling, or interning with an organization. If you’re unsure what you want to study or do career-wise, a gap year might help you find the answers to these questions.

When Do You Apply for College If You Take a Gap Year?

Friends applying to college after a gap year

There are two main options when it comes to applying for college if you take a gap year. You can apply to college during high school with the intention of taking a gap year. It’s necessary to research gap year policies of prospective schools.

Some colleges allow deferred enrollment, which means you can apply for deferred enrollment and delay your start date if you’re accepted. You can also send out college applications after high school during your gap year. Early admissions for the next school year typically open around early November, and regular admissions typically open in January or February.

Is Taking a Gap Year Bad?

Student taking a gap year after high school

It might be beneficial to take a gap year if you need a break from academics. It can also give you time to develop new skills and gain life experiences.

Gap years can come with some disadvantages if they’re not planned well. For instance, it may be more difficult to gather any documents requested by admissions offices. Transitioning back into the academic world after taking a sabbatical can also be difficult.

Whether taking a gap year is bad or not ultimately depends on what you intend to get from taking one and how you manage your time and resources during your break.

Can You Still Get Scholarships If You Take a Gap Year?

Student who took a gap year checking for scholarships

Yes, you can still get scholarships if you take a gap year. Certain programs are tailored to meet the needs of specific groups, such as providing financial aid for single mothers, grants for individuals seeking to return to school after unemployment, and support for those who have taken a gap year. If you’ve decided to take a gap year after college scholarships have been awarded to you, then you can inform the organization that you’re taking a gap year.

Enrollment requirements may apply to some scholarships. Depending on the organization, scholarship money awarded to you may be withheld until you return, or it may be revoked if enrollment requirements apply. You can apply for new scholarships at any point during your gap year or while you’re in college.

Can You Apply to College After a Gap Year?

students attending college after a gap year

Yes, you can apply to college after a gap year. While you’re encouraged to apply for college in high school because you have access to various resources as well as a guidance counselor, there’s also nothing wrong with applying to colleges after you’ve started your gap year.

It can give you time to develop a stronger admissions application and get a better understanding of your academic and career interests. Application deadlines for early and regular admissions can vary between schools, so it’s helpful to keep those dates in mind so you’re ready to submit your applications by the appropriate deadlines.

Can You Take a Gap Year During College?

College students planning on taking a gap year

Yes, you can take a gap year during college. A gap year often refers to the period of time you take a break from academics between graduating high school and starting college, but you can also take a gap year while you’re in college.

If you’re currently enrolled in college and want to take a gap year, you can reach out to your academic advisor for more information. Your academic advisor can inform you of gap year policies your college may have and the process to prepare you for your gap year and your return.

Should I Take a Gap Year?

Student doing internship during her gap year

A gap year can be a great time to assess what you’re looking to get out of college and what you want to study. It can also give you time to explore new skills and opportunities you may not have time to focus on once you begin college.

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Some things you can do during a gap year that might provide you with valuable experiences include traveling abroad, working, volunteering, or interning. There are organizations with gap year programs that may provide a more structured gap year experience to help you stay organized and easily transition back into school.

Applying to College After a Gap Year

Student getting into college after a gap year

Taking a gap year can be a refreshing experience after spending years in school. It can allow you to seek out new opportunities that can help you make new connections, learn new skills, and explore your interests.

You can apply to college while you’re still in high school, even if you plan on taking a gap year, or you can wait to submit your college applications during your gap year.

If you’re applying to college after a gap year, it can be helpful to use part of your time off to research accredited schools and collect any application materials you may need.

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Amy Hayes
Amy holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Old Dominion University, with a minor in English. She previously worked as an educator before starting her career as a writer. Amy spends much of her time researching and writing, with the goal of sharing valuable information with readers.