Gap Year: Is this the year?

Gap Year

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased number of students asking about a gap year. What is a “gap year”?

Typically the term refers to a year-long break before or after college/university.  During this time, students engaged in various educational and developmental activities, such as travel, volunteering or some other type of regular work.

A traditional gap year emphasizes experiential education and challenging comfort zones. Well-planned gap years can benefit students in some profound ways such as providing clarity and purpose for next steps, and enhancing work-related skills.

The key is carry out structured tasks, to learn new skills and, if possible, to do it outside of your own community. This helps you develop some life skills that cannot be taught in a classroom. Think of the gap year as an “education for life” – a time-out, not time off.

You don’t necessarily have to take a full year to enjoy a gap experience. In fact, shorter programs are gaining in popularity. If you plan to return to university/college, a shorter experience poses some logistical hurdles since many institutions do not have a mid-year intake.  So, before planning for a shorter year, be sure to check your preferred institution’s start timelines.

What if you’ve already been admitted to a university?

It’s possible for you to tell the university that you want to attend, just not this coming year. The process is fairly simple, but the way to do it varies from institution to institution.

The following are the steps you need to take:

  1. Accept of offer of admission
    • Accepting the offer of admission from your preferred institution reserves your spot and sets the wheels in motion.
  2. Ask about their deferral policy
    • You will likely be required to write a letter. Be sure to check whether any scholarships you may have received are impacted by your decision to defer.
  3. Plan your gap year
    • Universities/colleges will want to know what you’re doing before your rejoin them. Plus, planning is crucial for success, and you’ll want to include your gap year goals in your deferral request.
  4. Submit your “Intent to Defer” letter
    • Advise the university/college of your plans in the letter you submit to the admission office, and don’t forget to note when you plan to start classes.
  5. Complete any additional paperwork
    • Some institutions may require you to complete some forms. Be sure to do this as soon as possible.

Is a “gap year” for everyone?

No. It’s not for every student in every situation.  Why not?  Not every student in a position to be the driver, to take ownership, of their gap year experience. Being responsible for the experience, the easy as well as the challenging, is the most important ingredient for a successful gap year.

If a student lacks the discipline to organize a gap year, the structure and environment of further education could be beneficial. Students who are not yet independent enough may lose the momentum gained preparing for post-secondary studies. A compromise could be for the student to complete a year of study, and then participate in a foreign exchange program in the second year. It may not be a gap year but the experience will be memorable.

Take CanGap’s quiz to see if a gap year is right for you.

VerveSmith helps students find schools, universities and programs that match their aspirations, and to develop an admissions application strategy. For additional help, contact us.