Navigating College & Your Gap Year

The college admissions process is challenging enough, but should be seen as a necessary step in the evolution of your Gap Year. On average, 90% of AGA Accredited Gap Year graduates make their way back to university within a year. The good news is that once you hit college, Gap Year graduates also perform better in school and engage more in local campus activities. So, that being said, know that you’ll be bringing good value to whatever university you should choose to enroll in.

In almost all cases, your best bet is to:

Apply to college

Get accepted and pay your deposit.

Ask for a “deferral” from admissions. More and more universities are adopting a formal policy around deferrals as they’re seeing more students ask for these. In some cases, deferrals are specifically to take a Gap Year – and we always encourage announcing your plans clearly and honestly – but in other cases students are simply looking to take time to work and earn a bit of money for college.

Finding the ‘right’ college is a bit of a misnomer in terms of how the process works. The ‘right’ college is sort of like the ‘right’ Gap Year . . . regardless of where you go it’ll be a transformative experience, and they’ll be lucky to have you. But, bear in mind that this should be seen more as a plan rather than a commitment. In short, you certainly will change as a result of your Gap Year, so don’t feel overly obliged to stay with the ‘plan’ simply because it’s The Plan. Every good plan can be changed, especially if you no longer fit that school’s profile or you decide that you want something different at another university.


The admissions process is thankfully fairly simple. In most cases you’ll find that universities are excited to have you do a Gap Year. In some cases you’ll find that you have to do a bit of explaining for what one is and what you hope to get out of your Gap Year. Sometimes, as a result of your Gap Year, you may feel compelled to re-evaluate the college you initially sought deferral from. This is not unusual, and if the changes you’ve made in yourself throughout your Gap Year compel you to re-examine your university goals, then please do so. But remember, universities and colleges are making assumptions only based on what you tell them, so be up front and honest with your admissions representative if you’re considering making a change.

In either case, your experiences on your Gap Year most certainly will be a phenomenal foundation to write any future admissions essays. In most cases, regardless of where you are in your Gap Year, you can apply to different universities online and with a little help from your family and friends. So, while applying and deferring is the best practice for taking your Gap Year, it’s also very important to understand that you can indeed change universities and select another one even once you’ve begun your Gap Year.

Financial Aid

When taking a deferral for your Gap Year, remember that there are many different rules from university financial aid departments. In some cases they’ll grant a deferral, but only contingent upon the fact that you don’t enroll at another university during your Gap Year. In other cases it’s granted contingent on earning no college credit.

Regardless, in almost every college decision, the financial aid award plays at least a role in the college decision. Understanding as much, you should certainly weigh your options thoroughly – it’s not to say that there’s only one financial aid offer on the table from one university, but they do have their preferred way of doing things.

In most cases, universities prefer to have you enter as a freshman rather than come in as a “transfer” student. Each university has a different threshold for the number of credits in order to enter as a transfer. Sometimes it’s 30 credits, sometimes it’s 36, but you should check with your particular university to see what their rules are. For more information on funding your Gap Year, please see our Gap Year Financial Aid section

Photo Credit: Dave Meier

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