Gap year students can take classes and retake the ACT or SAT to stay in an academic mindset and enhance their exam scores before they apply to university or college.
Taking a gap year before university – as President Barack Obama’s daughter, Malia, plans to do – can be an enriching chances. Whether working, traveling and volunteering, the year off after school can open new paths.
A gap year, however, can also present unique challenges when it comes to university applications. Here are some useful tips on how to address these issues:
- Start the application process early:
For most students, 4 months is reasonable time period for preparing university applications. However, gap year students may have a plan that is less and busier structured than that of high school students. This is mainly true of students who are traveling during gap years.
One way to work around distractions is to start your university applications five to eight months before your earliest deadline. Mark your important dates, such as application submission deadlines and exam dates, on a calendar, and set reminders one week and one month in advance.
With such a long time period, it may be tempting to procrastinate – mainly if you are spending a lot of summer days in the beautiful outdoors and are working hard at an internship and a part-time job. It’s up to you to set deadlines; although you can ask a parent and a trustworthy friend to assist you stay on track.
- Capitalize on technology:
Visiting campuses is a very important step in finding the right college for you, but if you’re out of the country, physically visiting a university could be costly. Even if you stay in the United States, your gap year obligations could prevent you from taking tours.
Consider taking a virtual tour instead. Many colleges offer them, and a virtual tour can give you important insight into the look and feel of an institution.
If a virtual tour is not available, or you’re concerned that the one offered is not an unbiased portrayal of the campus, do a bit of sleuthing on YouTube, Instagram or Reddit. University students love to share their experience, and you can learn a great deal about a place by reading the stories and watching the videos posted by current and former students.
- Use networking to your advantage:
Contact the alumni networks for your prospective colleges, and ask whether there is a local chapter – or even a local individual who has graduated from one of your target university. Get in touch, and ask for a short informational interview to talk about the person’s experiences with the university.
Several universities that recruit internationally or nationally rely on their alumni network to conduct interviews with prospective students. The University of Chicago, for instance arranges interviews with volunteer alumni for those students who are unable to visit university campus.
This strategy likely works great for those students who are considering large institutions. You may be surprised, however, at the global reach of various small colleges. Even if there is no local representative, you may be able to arrange a video chat with an alumna or alumnus.
- Bolster your application selectively:
If needed, take advantage of the extra year before college to retake entrance test or to enroll in extra classes. Although you have graduated from high school already, you can still retake the ACT or SAT to improve your marks.
You can also take courses online and at a community college. There is nothing wrong with delaying college for year while you live at house, work and save money for tuition, and earn credits you can later transfer to a four-year university. That will allow you to graduate with less debt later, giving you more options after earning a university degree. Taking these courses will also be helpful items to showcase on the university application.
Don’t let the gap year be a misuse academically. Keep your mind active, and your college application strong, by taking a class to increase a weak point in your high school transcript. Alternatively, you can take a course in a subject or topic that you are considering as a major.