The Gap Year, ( or if taken between high school and college known as the Deferred Year) should be a strategy for growth, not avoidance of going to college. If the decision to take a Gap Year is a way to avoid doing the college search, application, essay writing, SAT taking, etc. it is definitely the wrong decision. It is a poor decision because it make the what after? question very nebulous and it reduces choices. It should be axiomatic that burning bridges or reducing choices is not really a good plan, unless radical change is called for. For most of us, it isn’t a legit. strategy. So, for all students who are planning on going to college in the near future, it is really important to go through the college applying gauntlet.
Experiencing the gauntlet’s edge, you have tools and insight you didn’t have before that you can use to your benefit; It helps answer the “what next” question of what can happen after your Gap Year. You have a college to go to and that gives you order and structure and hopefully a great opportunity. By this, I mean that if you have been accepted and put a deposit down giving you a place at a particular college in the Fall you though as “your college” in the midst of the turmoil of the college season, you have a direction and a place to go after your Gap Year, and that is a good thing. It also has made familiar what it takes to apply and get accepted to a particular college – and that can come in handy in the future. It also helps answer and help you come to grips with a question that may come up during your Gap Year, that is, is it the right college for you, on reflection? It can offer a valuable mirror against which to make future decisions that may come up. That is, if you discover that your interests and expectations have changed during your Gap Year, you have a gauge against which you can search for other, more appropriate colleges that you now know may well be a better fit. Not many students I work with on their Gap Year, choose to matriculate elsewhere, but on 2 occasions, students learned so much more about what they were capable of managing and why they truly were interested in, that they applied to other colleges for more suitable, and based on their new-found passion and dramatic increase in personal interest driven by their own self-agency, they were accepted; much better placements and even better, placements that they chose and not those given or expected of them. There is power in that.
There is no question that students who grow during their Gap Year (and most do if the year is designed properly), expanding their self-knowledge and finding a deeper appreciation for their world and its possibilities, go to college with a profound commitment to excel and the resilience and drive to have successful, experiences with greater balance and a clearer vision of the future. Knowing that college is an active, engaging span of time, they are far more apt to use their time well to set up a post college life and career that matches their tone, abilities and options for success, no matter what they determine “success ” for them is.