Creating the gap year plan

By College Counseling

“That was the best decision I ever made.”  “Daniella” said when I recently reconnected with her.  Several years ago, she was a student at The Williams School.  She did not get accepted to any college that she was really excited about and her parents contacted me because they knew my deep experience in crafting gap year plans for students.

Perhaps because my mother worked in the United Nations or perhaps from living in Washington, DC where I made many international friends, I had the good fortune of meeting dozens of international adults who were not programmed in our system.  Many of them took gap years in-between high school and college.  And, of course, their decisions had nothing to do with our pandemic.

The main reasons:

(1) Personal growth

(2) Understanding that this was one of the last realistic times in life for a “pause”

(3) Need for rejuvenation before heading back for more school

For my clients along the Connecticut shoreline over the last two decades, another reason was added into the mix:

(4) increasing the chance of admission at better colleges

Like Daniella, my college roommate took a gap year.  This was way back when and I, as a public school kid, didn’t know the advanced techniques of private school students.  He had attended one of those fancy New England boarding schools and his contacts there were told by our college’s admissions director that if he took a gap year that he would stand a far better chance at admission.  This was Daniella’s plan but we needed to fill her year with interesting things to do, skills to build, and experiences to market.  She did it all – loved most every minute of it -and was admitted to a school that had previously rejected her.  More interestingly, she said that gaining admission to the better school was not the main reason why taking the gap year was the best decision of her life.  “The actual year changed me for the better in so many ways.”

Now – given the pandemic – I am advising many of our clients to at least plan a gap semester or year instead of starting college.  I also think this makes sense for many returning college sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

The reasons are obvious and I’ve enumerated these elsewhere.   Daniella’s comment perhaps sums it up best: “that was the best decision of my life.”