What to Know About the Gap Year
It’s common for students to finish high school and then start university straight after summer break. However, another possibility is to take time off with a gap year. This option has become more popular in recent years for the benefits and opportunities it brings. Here’s what you should know before making a decision.
What Is a Gap Year?
Traditionally, a gap year lasted an entire year between high school and college. Today, though, a gap year can be just a semester or two. Plus, there’s no reason to take your gap year immediately — for example, you could take a break in the middle of your degree.
Whenever they take their gap years, students often use the chance to reflect on what they want to do in life, such as if they haven’t decided on a career path or even a major yet. Alternatively, you may want to take a gap year to focus on your mental health or to pursue opportunities that could be more difficult in the future.
How to Use Your Gap Year
There are no limitations as to how you use your gap year. You could travel, volunteer, work, or learn new skills. You could use the opportunity to enhance your resume, earn money to fund your education, or understand yourself better. As well as backpacking without a clear plan, immersing yourself in another culture, or practicing your language skills, you could join a structured program, such as volunteering, participating in a conservation project, or learning to code. There are also activities available that could earn you credit or give you a taste of research in a field you may like to work in after you graduate.
You could also use a gap year if the university you wanted to attend doesn’t accept you. Use the chance to gain the experience you need to strengthen your application.
Does a Gap Year Affect University Admissions?
Even students who want to take a gap year should start the university application process while they’re still at high school. This will mean you’re able to receive guidance from counselors and teachers. Plus, you’ll have a program lined up for when you finish your gap year.
It’s worth finding out universities’ policies on gap years. Rather than mentioning that you’re considering a gap year on your application, you should contact the admissions office. Once you’ve been accepted, you can talk to an admissions officer about your intentions and defer your enrollment. It’s unlikely that a university will deny you a place because you are taking a gap year, but the admissions office will likely want more information about how you’ll be using this time. In addition, you may need to contact the university around halfway through your gap year to confirm that you will still be attending.
Similarly, there is no need to divulge that you intend to take a gap year midway through your time at university — besides, you may find that your plans change. Just notify your school at the end of the semester before your gap year that you’ll be taking time off.
Is a Gap Year the Right Decision for You?
Determine whether a gap year is right for you, when you should take it, and how long it should last by thinking about your goals, your economic situation, and the experiences you want to have. Whereas gap years in the past were reserved for students who were able to support themselves financially for a year, there are now scholarships available for low-income students. Alternatively, you could just take a semester off — you may also like to consider doing this if you want to avoid falling behind your peers.
Taking a gap year gives you the chance to make preparations for university and avoids rushing into major decisions. For instance, you can take the time to find the right housing instead of just moving into student residence. Ottawa has 1Eleven, located just steps from campus. It offers large furnished suites, a fitness center, games rooms, and dedicated study spaces. Book a tour to see where you could be living when you start university.