There are many reasons why a student might be hesitant to leap from high school straight into college: burnout, confusion, a special opportunity, the need to make money. But when parents hear the phrase, "gap year," many conjure images of their kid binge-watching Netflix all night and sleeping till noon. They worry that if their child doesn't move directly from high school to college, they may never go at all; climb aboard now or risk missing the train altogether.
Most students do, in fact, go on to college after a gap year--according to one study, 90%. And there are some significant benefits to taking the time off. In general, gap year students return with:
increased ownership of their education
greater maturity and the skills to better navigate college life
greater clarity about their career and academic interests
renewed energy and focus
On the other hand, there are some risks to delaying school for a year:
Even if a student is sure about a gap year, he should still apply to college and then ask for a deferral. This way, the plan to return to school is already established. One caveat: not all schools allow deferrals, so don't make assumptions. By the way, some schools offer a full year deferral while others only offer a semester's worth. Some schools will allow students to maintain any financial aid offered, others will ask the student to reapply for aid. This information is usually available on a school's website. However, a quick call to admissions will provide a definitive answer.
If a school does allow deferral, they will want to know how the student plans to spend her time. The student will have to present a plan with expected outcomes that supports the student's reasons for taking the gap year. Once a deferral is approved, the school will ask the student to sign a contract committing to attending the school after the gap year.
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