Thinking about a gap year? It’s a good idea for some

Freelance writer Kyle DeNuccio traveled and surfed during a gap year away from college. Photo by Joe Johnston

Every year, more and more students and parents talk to me about the pros and cons of a gap year experience.

Taking a year off between high school graduation and freshman year can be liberating and the perfect choice for the right student.

Here are a variety of good reasons to consider a gap year.

  • Get off the treadmill. You really think you could benefit from some time off. High school has been stressful, the college admissions process has been incredibly anxiety-producing and you’re finding yourself perhaps not as motivated or excited for the next chapter. So many high school students just feel exhausted, spent and as if they’re running on fumes. Who wants to pay the high price of college today if you’re not fully invested in the experience?

Many students really benefit from doing something different for a year (community service, travel, work, internships, etc.) and then returning to an academic environment with their batteries fully charged. A number of colleges are now encouraging their accepted students to take off their freshman year and start renewed, refreshed and re-energized the following year.

  • Grow and mature. Not everybody is ready for independence, and some parents and many students, when pressed, worry that they may not be college-ready. They may have never lived away from home for an extended period of time, they may still be a little too dependent on their parents or they may not quite have mastered self-discipline and solid decision-making skills. A gap year experience that allows them to take baby-steps, lets them mature at their own rate and validates their progress and maturity can be the perfect antidote.

Just ask any college student and they will tell you that balancing academics and a social life is tricky. Many parents of freshmen who were forced to drop out during or after their freshman year now wish they had considered a gap year option.

  • Build your resume. A gap year experience can be a great opportunity to focus on a social issue, academic interest or a pet project. Most colleges will be happy to defer your admission to the following year, as long as they receive a detailed letter stating how you plan to spend your time off. Many students will use the year to dig deeper into something that interests them and then utilize that experience to gain entrance to a more selective college on the second go around. Some students have had the good fortune of reapplying and being accepted to a college where they had been previously been denied.

Gap year resources:


“The Complete Guide to Gap Year,” Kristin White

“The Gap Year Advantage,” Kari Haigler and Rae Nelson

“ Before You Go: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Gap Year,” Tom Griffiths



Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: