Thinking About a Gap Year? Here’s How to Maximize that time:

by | Feb 12, 2024 | Gap Year

Feeling a sense of “college readiness” as a senior in high school can take on various forms. Are you puzzled by how your high school coursework has prepared you for “the real world”? Is everyone in your family asking you what you want to study in college and you have no idea what major you plan to pursue? Regardless of your reasons for considering a gap year, Campus Bound can help you in telling your story to college admissions.

Taking a gap year can spotlight opportunities and provide exposure to career, academic, and personal exploration. In short, make the most of your year by dedicating your time to meaningful activities to promote growth…whatever that looks like for you. When I worked in admissions, this was distinctly what I looked for when reading a gap year student’s application. What did the student do during their “time off” and why?

No, colleges are not expecting your gap year to be a continuation of high school. In fact, colleges will often ask that you not enroll in credit-bearing courses. Be sure to check with your college or university to confirm their policy. Some will allow for one or two courses but not more than that, otherwise you’d be considered a transfer student! If you’re seeking a low-commitment, low-cost way to exercise your academic muscles during your year out of school, consider a massive open online course like Coursera or EdX. These platforms offer thousands of courses from music theory to blockchain security.

Whether you’re looking for an immersive program with a structured training component or an internship or research opportunity, gaining exposure to real world experience can give a good perspective before college. There are essentially two paths you can take here – one is to tap into your personal network (think about your parents, siblings, aunts or uncles). Are there shadow programs offered at their places of employment? If offered formally or informally, these are typically short term experiences, so expect this to be something that complements another experience. The second path is to pursue a structured program through an organization like Education First. Is traveling and learning a new language something of interest? Typically, these organizations offer internships abroad.

Ultimately, gap years promote personal growth, regardless of your plans. And, when all is said and done, colleges will want to know where this personal growth was for you. Instead of trying to “crack the code” and guess what you think colleges might want to see on your resume, dig deep, and consider what a meaningful year would look like to you. Perhaps it’s an expedition with Outward Bound or a year of service with AmeriCorps. For others, it’s a paid job at a local pharmacy to reaffirm their interest in pharmacy school. There’s an infinite number of opportunities that you could pursue to maximize your gap year and what that looks like will be contingent upon what you want to get out of that time period.

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