Parents: What to Do When Your Child Wants to Take a Gap Year

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Your child tells you she wants to take a gap year. Now what?


First of all, don’t panic. Don’t assume she’s throwing her future away, and understand that many students take this step. While there may be a couple drawbacks, there are also plenty of advantages.


Read on for other steps you should take if your child wants to take a gap year.


Have a Discussion Before Making Any Decisions

There are many possible motivations for wanting to take a gap year. Ask your child to explain her personal ones. You might also request that she write out her reasons. If she’s mature enough to present a well-reasoned, thoughtful response, then she’s probably mature enough to make an adult decision about her future.


It’s possible that the gap year is a given. For instance, if she wasn’t accepted to a college this year, she might take a year off to regroup and plan on applying next year. Other reasons might include going into the military, which means postponing education.


You might also encourage your child to take a gap year if she doesn’t seem ready for college. Read What to Do When Your Student Just Isn’t Prepared for College for tips on how to make this decision.


Create a Plan for the Gap Year

Make sure you establish a plan for how your child will spend the gap year. Ideas include:


  • Traveling
  • Doing a community service project
  • Taking other classes (particularly if she’s trying to build up her resume to apply again)
  • Working
  • Interning
  • Joining a service program such as City Year
  • Teaching English abroad

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Establish a Course of Action for When the Year Is Up

If your student wants to defer admission, the first step you need to take is ensuring that the college to which she was accepted allows it. If it does, discuss the procedures with an admissions officer at the school in question.


You’ll also need to prepare to send your child to college after the year is up. If she wants to apply to colleges again, look into the procedures for reapplying and make sure all her materials are in order. If she decides to take a gap year before applying to colleges in the first place, you may request that she apply anyway in case she changes her mind. Taking this step can also relieve stress, since she’ll have a clear plan for when the year is up.


Keep in mind that not all college allow admissions deferrals, so make sure you check with the specific schools first. You should also check on whether there will be any financial impact, since the school may require a deposit for holding your child’s spot or other fees.


For more tips, read What You Need to Know When Applying to Colleges After a Gap Year.


The Takeaway

A gap year can have a lot of advantages: Your child will gain maturity and have experiences she might not receive if she were to go college immediately. However, it’s also important to keep in mind some potential drawbacks. For instance, your child might feel left behind by peers, feel bored, and be concerned about being older than other freshmen when she starts school. A gap year could also have financial consequences, since deferral may have a financial impact as the cost of tuition rises every year.


When making this decision with your student, factor in the pros and cons. Also, make sure you have a detailed plan for how she will spend the year, as well as a plan for ensuring that she attends college after the year is over.


Looking for assistance as you help your student navigate the road to college? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.


Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.