You should take a gap year… and Colleges think so too!

By Anna Nickerson, Babson College ’22

The traditionally accepted educational path in the United States consists of students attending some sort of higher education institution, typically a 4-year college or university directly after high school graduation. However, this educational path often falls short for both students and the colleges they attend.

By some estimates over 30% of freshmen do not return to their initial college, either transferring schools or dropping out. This is not a desirable outcome for colleges, which have invested considerable resources in selecting their freshman class each year. More importantly, students have a difficult time making the transition from high school when the college is not a good fit, or they haven’t had enough time (and practice) to develop solid independent judgment and time management skills.

Partly as a result, colleges are seeing more stress and anxiety with incoming freshmen. According to the UCLA Freshman Survey, the number of freshmen who feel “frequently” depressed has been increasing steadily lately, jumping from 8.9% in 2013 to 12.2% in 2017. Colleges don’t want their freshmen to be unhappy or unable to balance school work with other activities. They want students who want to be there, are ready to be there, ready to learn, and likely to stay for all four years.

Enter the Gap Year! Gap Years provide students with an opportunity to work, do internships, travel, volunteer, or whatever it is that students and their families feel will help them grow and develop into more mature adults ready to tackle their collegiate careers. And fortunately for incoming freshmen, the majority of colleges have a very positive perception of Gap Years.

Of the 92 colleges surveyed by Gap Year Solutions recently, 85 had admissions representatives (92%) who reported that they were “supportive of Gap Years.” Many schools noted that they encourage and strongly support those students who are considering taking a Gap Year. The representative from Harvard University even stated, “[We] encourage them and want students to be here when they are hungry to be here.”

Given colleges’ positive attitude towards Gap Years, the schools make it relatively easy to defer and come back as a freshman the following year. For example, College of Charleston states, “We love for our students to take Gap Years and welcome them. Our policy is very straight forward. Students request to defer their enrollment and explain their Gap Year. From there, they agree to our terms and conditions before setting out on their Gap Year. We then send them an application update form to make sure nothing has changed to the original application and then accept them.” I myself took a Gap Year before entering Babson College as a freshman, and the process of deferring for a year was very simple and followed the same steps as outlined by the College of Charleston.

The decision to take a Gap Year is a personal one, but it should not be determined based on where you want to attend college. Nowadays, colleges are more open-minded about the needs and wants of their students and are willing to support more non-traditional paths, such as a Gap Year. It is very rare that a school will not accept your request for deferment, as long as you have a clear plan for your Gap time!

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