Taking a Year Off between High School and College

gap year is a post high school experience where you can engage in research, work, volunteer, travel, or participate in other opportunities. If you are admitted to a college and you want to take a gap year, you must request a deferral from that college to reserve your place until the following year.

There are several benefits of taking a year off before going to the college of your choice. A gap year can serve as an opportunity to

  • Obtain valuable life experience
  • Gain maturity and perspective
  • Focus on a potential major/career
  • Save money for college
  • Re-apply to a college or program to which you weren't originally accepted, as long as you didn't accept another college's offer

Colleges generally look favorably on gap year experiences. Some universities, including Harvard and Princeton, encourage their students to participate in a gap year. Princeton began a pilot "Bridge Year" program with students accepted for fall 2009. Interested students who were accepted into the program participated in the tuition-free program. Students spend nine months overseas engaging in community service projects. If successful, the program will be expanded for future classes.

The policies for granting deferrals vary widely from college to college. You should check on a school's policy before you request a deferral. You also need to find out whether any scholarships or special program acceptances, including Honors programs, will be honored or whether you will be re-evaluated with next year's pool of applicants. If a college does not defer acceptances, you may need to re-activate your application or re-apply with a new application. Check with your prospective colleges about their policy.

The process for requesting a deferral involves completing a "deferral request form," if a college has one, or writing a letter to the Admissions Office. A sample letter looks like this:

Date

College Name

Address

Dear Admissions Officer:

Thank you for your offer of admission. I would like to request a one-year deferral to participate in the name of program.

I look forward to attending name of college in fall _________. Thank you for your consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

Name

ID#

Once your request is submitted, you should receive a response from your college indicating if your request was accepted. You should also receive instructions about whether you need to re-activate your application or re-apply, or whether your spot will be held for you. If you have any questions, you should ask the Office of Admissions.

There are many gap year programs out there. The costs for these programs vary from no fee to costs comparable to one year in college. To ensure you are approved for a gap year, you can provide sufficient information about the program in your deferral request letter. You may have a better chance of being approved if the gap program you choose is an established program.