Does taking a gap year affect university admissions?

By Lindsey Conger

Going to college straight out of high school isn’t for everyone. Some students might feel unprepared and unsure of what they want to do with the rest of their lives. That is why a gap year is encouraged by many schools! For example, Harvard University “encourage(s) admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way.”

According to a report in the New York Times, students who take a gap year tend to be more successful than the students who did not take a gap year. Gap years have been on the rise due to the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic. This past year, more students were drawn to a gap year, with up to 16% of students seriously considering taking a year off before diving back into their studies.

A gap year can be a very positive thing, as long as you approach it correctly. However, if, by the end of it, you learned nothing, done nothing, and didn’t challenge yourself, then it will likely negatively impact your university admission.

To make the most of your gap year, you should be taking the time to explore your personal interests and discovering what you want to do for your future career. Volunteering, working, positively impacting the world, starting a business, and traveling can all be useful ways to spend your gap year. By the end of the year, you will be able to bring a fresh perspective to the school and be mentally ready to take on the challenging course material.

However, every university does approach a gap year differently. Schools like Princeton University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Middlebury College, and Texas Christian University don’t just look favorably at gap years, but actually have grants, programs, or scholarships that help you achieve your gap year goals. For example, UNC awards a Global Gap Year Fellowship of $7,500 to help fund a 9-month service-oriented gap year. If you have already been accepted to a university, check to see if they offer something similar.

However, other universities might not allow you to take a gap year after accepted. If you have already been accepted to a university and want to defer your enrollment, make sure to call admissions and ask if this is allowed.

Lindsey is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep (

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