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College Life 101: How to Have a Successful College Gap Year

Updated on May 27, 2020
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Dani is a college student who grew up broke and decided to change. They write about business, personal finance, and money management.

What Is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a year potential college students take off from college after graduating high school. It allows a time lapse for self-improvement and the pursuit of personal interests; simply put, it's a year devoted to learning outside the classroom.While most students take a gap year between senior year of high school and freshman year of college after being accepted through deferred admission, you can take one at any time during your college experience.

There are plenty of reasons to have a college gap year.
There are plenty of reasons to have a college gap year. | Source

Why Should You Take a Year Off College?

College is one of the most important steps a young person can take to give themselves a bright, successful future. However, sometimes taking a step back can be even wiser.

The idea of a gap year isn't a phenomena of the new millennial generation; Harvard has been recommending deferred admission to their students for over 40 years. Big name schools and prestigious universities understand the importance of taking a year off for decades.

After having a successful gap year, students come back fresh-faced and eager to learn. Taking a year off gives you a chance to learn and grow in ways that aren't always classroom-oriented. It also prevents burn-out and increases college retention rates and overall success, not to mention the benefits the student retains from their personal exploration and garnered new skills and experiences.

Plan Your Gap Year Before You Start

Having a gap year is a wonderful option for many new students. You grow as a person - which helps you grow successfully as a student. But to have a successful gap year, you have to have a plan. There are a few questions to ask yourself before you start your gap year:

  • Have you already been admitted to college?
  • Do you have stable housing and transportation?
  • Will you lose any critical scholarships if you don't go to school immediately?
  • Are you able to maintain momentum in a gap year?

Learn A New Language

In a thriving world economy, it's more important now than ever to be able to communicate with a diverse group of people. The United States has always thrived on it's unique population that encompasses many cultures and - you guessed it - languages. Many college students are already interested in other cultures and have learning other languages as a lifetime goal. A gap year is a great time to bring that dream to the forefront.

An added language looks great on college admission applications, should you choose to transfer schools or pursue a graduate degree. If you're really confident, the Latin, German, Korean, Japanese, and Spanish SAT Subject Tests can set you apart and show proof of your fluency. Depending on your field of study, it might even help your actual coursework. Of course, knowledge of a foreign languages is also an attractive and employable skill, and could land you a little higher on the corporate ladder than your peers when you first start off.

If you successfully master a language, a new doorway opens to understanding another culture. Reading foreign literature in it's original language is an experience like no other, and communicating with others in their native tongue can transform any travels.

Get a (Meaningful) Job

College is often very expensive, so getting a job during your gap year isn't a bad idea. It will allow a little extra cushion in case your costs get to be more than you expect.

However, remember that the focus of your gap year should be self-improvement. A part-time job at your local fast food restaurant won't add to your skills and likely won't be something you enjoy. Instead, pick a job in a field you enjoy, preferably something related to your announced major or another passion. English majors may enjoy working part-time at a book store or library. If you're seeking a business degree but want to pursue fashion, applying for a job at a trendy boutique allows you to kill two birds with one stone.

Tutoring is also an excellent option. It gives you experience with children that is helpful for a resume, while allows makes sure you retain the years of information you absorbed in secondary school. This choice in particular is great for education majors, as it gives you a chance to test the field before you even start your classes.

Get In Shape

Every college student has heard of the infamous "Freshman 15." This phenomena demonstrates just how stressful and time-consuming college life can be, and is a great reason to get in shape during your gap year. Being physically healthy before you embark on your new academic makes the college transition much smoother.

A gap year is a wonderful time to re-evaluate your fitness goals and make healthful changes to your lifestyle. We could all do to cut out some junk food and hit the gym a little more. Taking some time to seriously devote to your health now will pay dividends now only just in college, but for the rest of your life.

Whether your goals are to slim down, bulk up, or just increase your stamina, there is always something you can do to make a positive change to your health.

Travel and Explore

One of the most exciting opportunities a gap year can provide is the ability to broaden your horizons. Travelling, learning new cultures, and exploring the richness of others is one of the best ways to use a gap year.


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