Wondering how taking a gap year might affect your college admission or financial aid? CollegeXpress Student Writer Tamar explains some common gap year concerns and why you shouldn’t be worried at all.
Taking a gap year used to be a foreign idea to many. However, with the passage of time, more and more students have chosen to take a year off before starting college. In fact, a 2015 survey by the American Gap Association showed a 22% increase in students taking gap years. Students who choose to take this year for themselves often return more mature, more confident, and better prepared for the years of studying that lie ahead.
However, many concerns arise when considering a gap year. If you’re one of those people who’s worried about taking a year off, worry no longer! Below are some common concerns about gap years and why you shouldn’t have those concerns at all.
Related: List: Great Gap Year Programs
1. Gap year programs are expensive
Yes, some programs (especially international ones) might come with hefty price tags. However, that doesn’t apply to all programs. There are plenty of gap year opportunities that cost students little to no money, oftentimes in exchange for volunteer work. For example, AmeriCorps programs provide health care benefits, a stipend for boarding expenses, and a scholarship to use toward college tuition at the end.
Even if a program comes with a fee, there are still grants and scholarships available that can help cover the cost. The Gap Year Association is a great resource to consult in order to find funding opportunities that you may qualify for.
2. That means I need to push off my college applications for an extra year!
No, it doesn’t. Not only can you still search for and apply to colleges during your junior and senior years of high school, but you should! This is because during those years, you have the time and resources to go through the college application process, and you may not have those available later on.
Plus, in today’s day and age, most colleges accept requests for gap years—and many even encourage students to take them! After you have been accepted to the college of your choice, you can often go through a simple process to defer your acceptance for an additional year.
With that said, it’s always best to double-check the policies of a specific college or university. The Gap Year Association has a great database of these policies that you can access here.
3. If I take a gap year, I will miss out on money for college
This is often untrue. If a specific college or university grants you a scholarship, they will likely hold it for you until you return. (However, it’s always best to check.) As for federal student aid, taking a gap year means you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA form once again. However, if your financial circumstances don’t significantly change from one year to the next, you’re likely to get the same amount of aid that was offered to you initially. (And you have to fill out the FAFSA every year you are in college to be considered for aid anyway!)
4. But I’ll be completely on my own!
Yes, that’s a valid concern. However, learning how to live on your own is great preparation for the college years and adulthood that lie ahead. Also, chances are you won’t be completely on your own. Whether you’re staying with a host family or living with a group of peers, you will likely form friendships and a strong community wherever you may be.
Taking a year for yourself, albeit a scary thought, can reap powerful benefits in the long run. According to a 2015 survey by the Gap Year Association, 97% of responders felt their gap year made them more mature, and 96% claimed it helped them grow as a person and increased their self-confidence. Taking a gap year can also expose you to different cultures and ideas, and in an ever-changing world, learning to bridge the gap between differing communities is a very important skill.
So yes, learning to live on your own will be a big change, but one that is definitely worthwhile.
Related: Your Goals, Your Life, Your Gap Year
Still unsure? That’s okay—a gap year isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re interested in expanding your horizons and growing as an individual, taking a gap year might be a great choice for you! And luckily, there’s no need to worry about negative repercussions of your decision.