July 22, 2024

Can You Apply for University After a Gap Year?

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Many people travel during their gap year, so naturally a common concern among thousands of students each and every year is if they can you apply for college after a gap year. The short answer is that you can, but you’re probably better off applying during senior year along with everyone else. There are good reasons for that – but first, a little background.


Every year, students with confirmed admission to college programs change their plans, deferring their educations for a year or even two years to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime experiences traveling abroad.

This is called a “gap year,” a year of travel intended to broaden the experience students bring with them to college.

A small but growing number of students are choosing to take advantage of gap year programs to delay college for a year or two. They volunteer on farms in developing countries or in hospitals in Asia. They support scientific research in the Amazon rain-forest or tour art museums and delve into different cultures all over Europe. They spend a year as an understudy with an opera company or intern as journalists covering events in Somalia or Ghana.

Specialized gap-year agencies offer hundreds of programs intended to help students explore career options, volunteer to support causes they care about, or learn more about world travel.



For students who aren’t sure about a college major, a gap year can be just the thing. It lets them explore laboratory research or wine making or journalism before committing to a four-year program.

President Obama’s daughter, Malia, announced that she would be taking a year off before attending Harvard University. After the announce, naturally, there have been more interest in students following the same path and taking a year off before spending 4 years of intense studying.

Gap year students tend to do better in college, too. They’re a year older and more mature than other students, and more serious about their studies. They’ve been exposed to more ideas than most of their peers, and may as a result be more open-minded. They bring their gap year experience to bear in class, which helps other students. Gap year kids get higher grades and have a higher graduation rate.

Cost is an issue, of course. In addition to airfare, the student will sustain living costs for the year. Many programs offset those costs by employing the students as workers or interns for the duration of the gap year. It is not difficult to find programs that cost just $1,000 for the whole year, plus airfare. But some programs cost much more.

Some universities and colleges that encourage gap years include Florida State University, Columbia University, Yale, Harvard, and University of Alabama to name a few. Here’s a list of study abroad gap year programs- click here.


Some students take a year off between high school and college, calling it a gap year but staying home to save up for college or simply take a year’s break from studying.

Colleges that value gap-year students don’t consider such breaks real gap years unless the student can demonstrate personal, professional, or academic growth during the year off.

In general, taking a gap year involves travel and the resulting broadening of perspective. Students who have lived and worked in another country gain a valuable way of understanding their lives at home in a new context…and, if they are lucky, they’re part of the 60% of backpackers who have had sex while traveling.


Experts advise that students who intend to take a gap year apply for college along with their classmates during their senior years of high school. One very practical reason is that the school has all the necessary documents and procedures in place to assist with preparing the application. Students who wait until after their gap years to apply may find it hard to get recommendations from teachers who have retired, or to retrieve copies of their transcripts out of prior-year archives.

Once the student has been admitted to college, it’s a simple matter to apply for a deferment. Most colleges and universities grant deferments routinely, but of course it’s worth checking on this at the college website and with an admissions counselor.

Deferment means that the student’s place at the college is reserved for a year, until the student returns from a year abroad.

In general, college scholarships can be deferred as well. It may be necessary to reapply for financial aid, however.

It is possible to apply for college during the gap year or after returning. Most colleges look favorably upon students who take a year to explore their passions and the world before their freshman years. They tend to bring more to the academic experience than their peers who enter college directly from high school. Gap years tend to make great subjects for admissions essays, too.


It’s understandable that you’d want to go right into a career and not travel during your gap year, but is that the right decision? Obviously, only you can decide what’s best for you. Only you really know your situation that is unique only to you. If you need to work to pay your bills, then maybe you can work and travel, but understand that traveling while working full time means that you’ll only be able to travel during your vacation days and weekends. Here’s a story about a girl who decided to work during here gap year- click here.

The real reason for a gap year may be that it is a unique opportunity to spend a year exploring another part of the world without spending a fortune, giving up a job, abandoning a spouse and kids, or losing career momentum. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to investigate options, try on different lifestyles, and meet people who are very different from the ones you grew up with.

With all those benefits, it’s no wonder more and more students are choosing to spend gap years abroad.

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