High school graduation is approaching, which means that thousands of young men and women are already making plans for their summer activities and the upcoming school year—their first year of college! Other new graduates are taking an alternate route, and they’ve decided to put their educations on hold and take a break between high school and college.
A one-year break between high school and college is often called a gap year or a bridge year. It gives students the chance to take a break from studying and attending classes, but it isn’t the year-long party you may be dreaming of. Many students travel internationally, do volunteer work, complete internships, or even take on full-time jobs in order to save money for college. Gap years are common in other countries around the world, particularly in Europe, but the trend hasn’t quite caught on in the United States.
If you apply to college during your senior year of high school and receive an acceptance letter from a school, you may not necessarily have to enroll in the fall. Many schools allow a one-year deferment, if an explanation is provided as to why you’re taking a gap year and what you plan to do during your time off. You could also wait to apply to colleges until the year after your senior year, but it’s usually advised to apply while you are still in high school.
If you’re halfway across the world when a problem strikes, you’re going to have to figure out a solution on your own. That’s something you may not have ever had to do before. For that reason, advocates of the gap year claim that traveling without parents or friends is a great way for students to “grow up” or “mature.”
Getting a full-time job may also teach you to mature, as you learn that going to work every day isn’t quite as easy as you’d imagined it would be, and an internship may help you realize that you do (or do not) want to study the field that you’d been planning to study once you do start college.
Some schools will not defer your enrollment, and others will do so only if you pay a fee to hold your spot for the following year. Some students enjoy traveling or working so much that they decide to extend their gap year, and they never go to college even though that was their original intention.
If you do return to school after one year in order to start college, you’ll be a year older than the other incoming freshmen. If you’d planned on attending college with some of your high school friends, you may not be able to see them as often as you’d hoped because you will be at different levels after your yearlong break.
One major reason that students typically skip taking a gap year in the U.S. is health insurance. Students are typically able to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies while they are in school, and taking a break between high school and college would mean that they’re no longer covered by the policy.
Money is probably the major deciding factor, because students who simply cannot afford to travel or do unpaid volunteer work or internships decide to head straight to college immediately after high school.
Though uncommon, gap years are starting to occur more often in the U.S. so if the idea of taking a year to volunteer or intern before college sounds appealing to you, you may want to discuss it with your parents and counselors.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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