When I graduated from Seton in summer 2014, I was sixteen years old. Although I was academically ready to start college, I was far from emotionally ready and I was not responsible enough to live on my own, even in a dorm.
After discussing my situation with my parents, I chose to wait a year before going off to college.
Taking a gap year was the best decision I could have made, but it’s not the right choice for everyone. I would like to outline the pros and cons of taking a gap year as well as provide some advice on making your gap year productive and worthwhile.
PRO: It gives you time to decide what you really want to do.
When I went to interview and compete for a major scholarship, I was really surprised to learn that some of the students competing didn’t know what they wanted their majors to be. These were all very bright students who could be quite successful, but they had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives.
I was the same way my senior year. I didn’t have clear reasons for going to college or a plan for when I graduated. During my gap year, I had time to read on my own and discovered an interest in chemistry.
In a few weeks, I will be starting nursing school with confidence in my decision, a confidence that I would not have without taking a gap year.
CON: It will make you ineligible for a lot of third party scholarships.
Most third party scholarships are for high school seniors only, so you have to plan ahead and apply in your senior year.
Make sure that you will be able to accept the funds a year later.
PRO: You can work a lot of hours to earn money for college.
Instead of having a part time job while trying to complete Seton and apply for colleges, you can devote your full attention to your school and then possibly work full time, making college easier to afford.
I had already taught piano lessons junior and senior year, but, after graduating, doubled the amount of lessons I taught and started tutoring six to eight hours a week.
CON: You must constantly remember your goals and motivate yourself to accomplish them.
A break from school after Seton was very nice. I let my brain relax a little and took on some new hobbies that I didn’t have time to do before. However, I knew that college was necessary for my future and that I could not take an everlasting gap year.
To keep myself motivated, I wrote a list of my top college picks in early October, along with the application deadlines and number of essays required.
Then, I set to work applying. I’m grateful that I had a clearer mind with which to tackle my applications, but motivating myself was sometimes challenging.
PRO and CON: Some colleges really like the idea of a gap year, while others don’t.
The experiences I had during my year off gave me much to talk about on my admissions essays and scholarship interviews. In addition, since I worked and volunteered, I had a more impressive resume to submit for scholarship competitions.
However, if you know you want to attend college and you think that you could be eligible for significant institutional aid, you may want to think about a specific reason for taking a gap year.
When applying, you will most likely have to explain why you skipped a year, so if you don’t fill your year with interesting, productive, and meaningful things, it will reflect poorly on you.
As a side note, be sure not to take any college classes during your gap year unless you want an AA first because that can be a problem when it comes to transferring.
Also, If you are interested in a specific college, discuss the idea of a gap year with your admissions counselor.
Taking a gap year worked out really well for me, but there’s a reason it’s not the norm. However, if after careful thought, you decide it’s the right choice for you, go for it. It’s a great experience that I do not regret.
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