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Education: Exploring Gap Year in the pandemic

By Rita Chakravorty Email By Rita Chakravorty
September 2020
Education: Exploring Gap Year in the pandemic

Students all over the world are weathering this historic period of the pandemic. As they navigate through unchartered territories, college-bound students have an option that may be viable for some. It’s known as the Gap Year.

Gap Year is when the student doesn’t go straight to college after graduating high school, and instead spends a year traveling, volunteering, or working.

However, it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. There are many stipulations, along with pros and cons. Here’s looking at what it entails. A gap year may give students some more time to think about what they want to study, and a career that they’d like to pursue. High school may have kept them really busy with
classes and extracurricular activities, and now they can take a year for themselves and reflect. While we talk about time for themselves, it can’t be time spent sleeping in or watching TV. Students don’t get credit for doing that for a whole year!

It needs to be spent volunteering, travelling, or interning. These experiences should add value to their resume while giving them a clearer sense of purpose in academics and life. Besides giving them clarity, often
the change of pace during the gap year gives the student a boost to perform better in college and can infuse
a renewed focus. And, even as it expands their horizons, an internship or employment can be beneficial to their pocket. These extra funds may seem exciting at first, but know that the students’ assets count more against them than the assets of their parents, when it comes to qualifying for student aid. These extra funds can be strategically used by those who have siblings in college simultaneously. The expected family contribution may be split between the number of children.

Besides finances and clarity, a gap year can lend itself to being beneficial by allowing the students to travel and learn about a new culture. Navigating a new culture means learning a new language and surviving on their own. Think of the confidence boost a student gets from that. Their proficiency in the new language may help a student test out for a foreign language requirement in college. Often gap years give students the opportunity to explore and experiment with less on the line. In some cases, it may end up saving them money on the choice of a college major.

Students must weigh the possible cons before they consider a gap year. Consider the yearly expenses toward
travel and volunteering, not to mention the cost of a gap year program itself, which can run well into thousands. It also pushes their graduation by a year. So, think of it as delayed earning potential.

So it is important for a student considering a gap year to have a solid game plan to ensure what they’re doing adds skills and resume bullet points that will pay dividends after even the year is over.

Many students want to go with the momentum of high school. Taking a year off could make getting back to books a year later challenging. It’s not just as straightforward as joining a year later. It requires permission, paperwork, justification, and follow up phone calls (lots of them!). If students get a financial aid award, then they’ll have to resubmit their financial aid application for the year they want to attend. The gap year won’t automatically transfer any financial awards. Without careful planning and timely actions, opportunities can be lost.

Applying diligently through an established gap year program will require as much work as applying to the universities. Once students have weighed the idea of a gap year, they need to take steps to put it in place. There is a way to make it official. The Gap Year Association
vets the colleges with favorable gap year policies and lists four steps for interested students to follow when applying to school.

• Students should apply to a college as a senior. Even if gap year is on their mind, applying to universities
with their graduating class will allow them to get hold of teachers and counselors to aid them with the application process.

• Students should ask prospective colleges about their gap year policy. While some colleges encourage it, some don’t— for example, California State University System doesn’t allow deferment. Those who allow may even be willing to give the students college credit while they’re doing something else worthwhile. Some other colleges might expect them to send regular updates of their whereabouts and activities.

• Students should secure admission at the university. Once the students secure a spot at the college of their dreams, they may have to put down a tuition deposit.This commits the student to the college, so they know that those students are coming back after their gap year experience.

• Students should request a deferral. They can request the universities’ gap year policy and what the college requires them to do to get a deferral.
If students are interested in participating in a gap year program, there’s also an application process which has its own list of steps.

Research. Just like when looking into universities, students should consider the different programs and how they differ from each other. They must review the risk management, curriculum, and support as well as speak to other ex-students from the program.

Apply. As students are applying to universities and thinking about a gap year, they should keep a look out for the gap year program application deadlines. Making a few calls to clarify specific details will hold them in good stead.

Prepare for the program. Once students are accepted to a program, they’ll receive information about next steps and how to prepare.

 Examples of  Gap Year Programs

The best gap year program will really depend on the students’ personal goals. Below are examples that highlight the diversity of gap year experiences.

Aardvark Israel -

Art History Abroad -

Camps International -

Carpe Diem -

The Gap NZ -

InnerPathWorks -


Ridge Mountain Academy -

Sea|mester -


Here are some helpful information resources that can help guide you through the process.

1. Center for Interim Programs –

2. Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) –

3. Go Overseas –

4. Gap Year Association –

5. Teen Life –

Rita Chakravorty is the founder and lead consultant for CollegeSmartboard, a one-on-one college admissions counseling service. She has 15 years of pedagogical experience in Elementary,Secondary, and Higher Education, and close to 10 years in college admissions counseling. To comment on this article, please write to​​

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