Starting College Late After Gap Year

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Gap years, a period off between high school and freshman year of college, are becoming more popular in the United States. Even the former President’s daughter, Malia Obama, is currently taking one before starting Harvard next year! This gap can be used to relax and recharge, travel, save up money for tuition, etc. But what happens when your gap year is up and you’re ready to re-start at your college of choice? This advice on how to start college late after gap year will help you feel like you haven’t missed a beat.

 

Ease Into College

It can be tempting for gap year students to try to jump right into college at full-force. Some make the mistake of taking on too much because they feel they need to play “catch-up” with the rest of their age group.

Don’t buy into this! Stop comparing yourself to those who took the normal track. Instead, remember that you’re a freshman too, and no one would advise a freshman to take more credit hours that they need or to enroll in the most advanced class possible. Ease into college with a schedule that matches your academic needs at the time — not what your friends who didn’t take a gap year may be doing.

 

Go to Orientation and Freshman Events

Being a year or two behind may make you the oldest in the class, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Your first-year experience is important, and so is going to all those fun orientation events your college has set up for you. They are valuable for many reasons, but, first and foremost, they are an opportunity to make some friends with peers that will be in the same level classes with you.

Orientation is also great at helping you get around. You’ll learn where the restaurants are, who your academic advisor is, where the best shops are off-campus, etc. Never underestimate the value of orientation, even if it all seems a bit cheesy to you. Attend and learn!

 

Use Your Gap Year to Your Advantage

All colleges and universities are different in how you must declare your major. Many have no problem with you going in as “undecided” for a year or two. Others will need you to declare right away. If that’s the case, then your gap year can help you decide at least where you may want to head.

Think of your break in the real world. Did you really enjoy working in the restaurant business while you saved up tuition? Were there activities that you enjoyed doing every week (or the complete opposite)? Did you pick up any new languages while you traveled or networked with some interesting people during your post-high school internship? Sit down and spend a couple hours (or several days) going through what you loved and didn’t love about your year off. It can really make the difference in showing you where your heart is.

 

Get Support Early On

A year off is unlikely to ruin you academically. If you were a good student before your gap year, you’ll probably remain so when start up school again. You may be rusty on those studying or test taking skills, but a few weeks into classes and you’ll be back to your old self.

However, if you took off time to recharge after a difficult senior year, then it’s important you set up support systems early. Check out your college’s tutoring center. Often, these are free services that help provide you with professional, experienced math teachers, writing experts, and student aids. Teaching Assistants (TA’s) can also be valuable for classes you feel you may struggle in. The important thing is to ask!

Getting the right support, setting yourself up for success, and easing back into college life after gap year can make all the difference!

The Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year Before College

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Gap Year

When word broke that U.S. President Obama’s oldest daughter Malia was heading off to college, the world went nuts. But it wasn’t just because she was following her dad’s footsteps and going to Harvard. It was because she announced she would be taking a gap year before attending. Gap years, which are very common in Europe and South America, is time taken off between graduating high school and going to college. It usually lasts a year or two, and like the decision to go back to school right away, has some major pros and cons. Here’s what you should consider if you’re thinking of following Malia’s lead.

Pros of Taking a Gap Year

Take a Break

Let’s start with a question: After eight years of elementary school and four high school, how do you really feel? You’re almost certainly stressed, tired, and not really “in” it. That’s what gap year is for! It’s all about taking time for yourself to refresh your batteries and put the brakes on the formal learning process.

Explore

Gap years can also be informative. In Europe, most students use this time to travel and see the world. If gap year is for you, consider saving up for a backpack adventure with a friend or a road trip around the United States. You may find a whole side of life you never knew was out there — and you won’t have to wait four years to do it.

Give Back

It’s also customary to use a gap year to volunteer. Take on a big project locally or travel abroad to go really large with your giving. Making a difference while you kick back looks amazing on a resume or college application.

Save

But if volunteering isn’t for you, start your career early with an entry-level position. Save this income to pay off the next few year’s tuition in advance. You’ll thank yourself when your friends get their first student loan bills in the mail.

 

Cons of a Gap Year

It’s Complicated

Most schools in the United States are still not used to gap schools and are not in the position to give you an admissions answer a year in advance. You may have to do over the application process again or, if possible, ask for deferred admission.

Being Behind Schedule

Your friends will graduate before you. They’ll likely get jobs before you as well or move out of the house earlier. If you’re worried about missing out on those experiences or sticking with the normal timeline, a gap year isn’t for you.

You Might Not Want to Go Back

This is where it helps to know yourself. If you’re not that motivated to go to college (but need to anyway for your career), taking a gap year can be dangerous. At worst, it can take away the incentive to go back to school. Sometimes taking time off can cause us to procrastinate or help obstacles and distractions, such as a decent paying job, get in our way.

You’ll Need to Explain

While it most likely won’t happen, a future interviewer may notice the gap between college and a job. It may also come up when re-applying for school. However, you can always show the pros above to convince them that this was the plan for you and that you made the most of your gap year.