After Decision Day: Why More Young People Are Taking a Pause Before College

What’s Up With Gap?

Yesterday was the deadline for deciding whether or not to go to college this fall, and for an increasing number of high school seniors the day came and went without much fanfare. That’s because so-called “gap years” are rising in popularity, with would-be college students putting their higher education on pause.

The nonprofit Gap Year Association says 130,000 students took gap years during the 2020-2021 academic year, meaning they chose not to immediately enroll in college after graduating from high school. The number is around 80,000 students higher than what was typical before the pandemic. Consultants and college advisers say the biggest reason for this is low acceptance rates, as some of the more highly selective schools admitted 4% fewer candidates this spring.

Reasons for the Pause

In some cases, students hope putting college off for a year may help their chances of getting in, given how acceptance rates have dipped recently. Others embrace the strategy as a way to become more worldly and experienced before entering college.

Admissions deans have said some applicants become more attractive by “leaving their comfort zone” during gap years, while others note many schools are unlikely to accept someone they rejected the year prior. Some colleges and universities offer programs specifically tailored to gap years, with internships, paid work, and foreign language instruction being popular areas of focus.

Campus Money Tips

For those young people who are heading to college, as well as their families, the financial implications are significant. Paying for college and having some spending money on campus can require some work and proper planning.

A basic step many advisors suggest is to visit the campus and get a sense of the area. Many students could benefit from a work-study program or a part-time job on campus, especially if parents or guardians aren’t providing an allowance. Learning about personal finances is an important consideration, with or without a gap year.

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