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!