Taking Advantage of the Gap

Taking Advantage of the Gap Year

Time off between high school and college

How can you take advantage of the gap? … you know, those years that some people “take off” between high school and the time they apply for college. Those years don’t have to be a detriment to getting into college and doing well. Many students do better by taking anywhere from one to a few years “off” to pursue hobbies, mission trips, join the military, or find a job. Whatever the reason, this gap between high school and college acceptance can be turned into a plus instead of negative.

In many locales, the idea of “taking time off” before attending college is very popular. Many students and adults believe that this time can prepare them better for college life. However, for those students who enroll in college and then defer attendance for a year, the percent of those not returning is rising. The problem is that for most students once they start a job and begin making money it is quite difficult to go back to education. The other problem is that it becomes difficult to retain good study habits when they aren’t being used.

Ensuring your return to college

A great suggestion for helping students make sure they return to college is to take a course at junior college while pursuing other interests in the gap year. This enables them to retain study habits, and to keep their minds open to pursuing an education.

When returning to college, the gap years can be presented as an advantage by writing up how the time was used in a beneficial way. College officials will be more pleased to see that the time was used in a contributive manner. The writer of the “Ask the Dean” Column, Sally Rubenstone, tells us that “poor planning is the biggest gap-year pitfall.”

She gives this clear advice, “Map out a careful blueprint of the year to come. Be specific. For instance, while a paying job can be a good way to fill hours, to make money for college down the road and to possibly learn new skills, what happens at the end of the work day, when the night is still young and there is no homework to do? And if travel is on the docket, is there a realistic budget in place?”

Gap year alternative

Another bit of advice is to pursue “gap year” experiences while attending college. Colleges typically don’t offer course credit for student experience during that year if it is prior to enrollment. However, if a student attends college while in Europe or other countries, transfer credit may be applicable. Many colleges may offer internship credit if the experience was gained after enrollment.

Gap year statistics

As this idea of a gap year is growing in popularity, the American Gap Association has published research showing that taking a gap year typically endows the student with a sense of satisfaction with their jobs, and a “less selfish approach to working with people.” In addition for most students the gap year affected their choice of career and college major. Many reported being affected in a life changing way by conducting a gap year in another country.

The key to getting the most out of your year off is to stay organized. Essentially, the best way to take a “gap year” is to wisely plan for it. If a career choice has already been made, make plans to support that choice by spending your gap year in an endeavor connected to it in some way.

Resources for maximizing your gap year

  • Use an accredited source such as the American Gap Association to document your year for possible college credit.
  • Impact the world while it impacts you with GoAbroad.
  • Find a great gap year job or volunteer position.
  • Volunteer with Servas in over 100 countries to be a part of establishing peace and relief efforts.
  • Or try Planet Gap Year for some general information on how to plan and implement your gap year!



Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]

June 19, 2012


  1. Robin says:
    Posted September 2, 2012 9:43 pm

    My son took a year off after High School and my daughter is doing the same. It was great for my son. He entered college the following year and is doing well.

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