Does Taking a Gap Year Affect College Admission?

Many students consider taking a gap year but worry it will affect their admission status or future college admission. Here's what to know from an expert.

Silhouette image of a person sitting at a desk with computerLindsey Conger
College Counselor and Tutor
Moon Prep
Going to college straight out of high school isn’t for everyone. Some students feel unprepared and unsure of what they want to do with their lives. That’s why a gap year is encouraged by many schools! For example, Harvard University “encourage(s) admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way.”

According to a report in the New York Times, students who take a gap year tend to be more successful than students who don’t. Gap years have been on the rise due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. This past year, more students were drawn to a gap year with up to 16% of students seriously considering taking a year off. A gap year can be positive if you approach it correctly. If by the end of it, however, you learned nothing, did nothing, and didn’t challenge yourself, it will likely negatively impact your college admission.

To make the most of your gap year, take time to explore your personal interests and discover what you want to do for your future career. Volunteering, working, positively impacting the world, starting a business, and traveling can all be useful ways to spend your gap year.

However, every university approaches a gap year differently. Schools like Princeton University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Middlebury College, and Texas Christian University actually have grants, programs, or scholarships to help you achieve your gap year goals. For example, UNC awards a Global Gap Year Fellowship of $7,500 to help fund a nine-month service-oriented gap year. If you’ve already been accepted to a university, check to see if they offer something similar. However, other universities may not allow you to take a gap year after you’re accepted. If you’ve already been accepted to a university and want to defer your enrollment, be sure to call the admission office and ask if this is allowed.

Connect to colleges mentioned in this Ask The Experts response!

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