College or Gap Year? 3 Words of Advice

gap-year-toonThe acceptance letters are starting to roll in.  May 1st decision day is looming!  You have horrible senioritis.  The pressure is mounting for you to make final decisions before commencement.

For a number of reasons, you just aren’t feeling it when it comes to heading to college.  You have your own perspective on that, and, of course, you have learned that everyone has an opinion to offer you.

What to do?

Here are 3 words of advice from someone who sees students in this predicament every April.

  1.  Don’t ignore that ‘gut’ feeling.  
    • If you’re feeling it now, it will definitely revisit you when you are sitting in the lecture hall on a Monday morning on your college campus.  The social life of a high school senior, summer plans, and the first few months of the college social world can numb that feeling for a bit.  But expect that ‘gut’ feeling to return.  You know–the one telling you ‘college will always be there, but now is my time to explore’.  That ‘gut’ feeling only grows with time.
  2. Keep your options open. 
    • Call the colleges you’ve been accepted to and ask them if they would welcome a deferral for a year to travel on a purposeful, well-planned gap year.  Assure them you will not take college credit elsewhere while on your gap year.  Ask them if it would jeopardize any scholarship opportunities.  It never hurts to ask!  And you’ll be surprised how many schools are now open to this deferral process.
  3. It’s not too late to apply for a gap year.
    • Believe it or not, you are actually in the middle-of-the-pack with those who will apply for a gap year program to attend next fall.  Gap Year programs see their largest enrollment take place in the late winter, spring, and early summer.  So the chances are very good there is a spot open for you on your favorite gap program!

I know this is a stressful time for you.  You don’t want to make the wrong decision right out of the gates!  But if you stop for a minute, pull away from the pressure, and consider your options, you will realize you are in a great position.  There is opportunity in front of you and that is something to be excited about.  The question is, “What decision will you make?”  And that is challenging for sure.

But if FOMO is a factor in it all, just remember this:  the average student is taking 5-6 years to complete their undergraduate degree.  Gap Year students are averaging less than 4 years to graduate.  If you choose a gap year, the only difference for you and your friends might be who took the most adventurous route for their first year after high school.  And that is likely to be something you are proud of down the road.