Best Practices in Working with a Gapper

Whether you're an Independent Educational Counselor, an Admissions Counselor for a college or university, or a high school educational or college counselor, there's a few basics you should know about Gap Years in order to best advise your students. The steps are simple. In general, the best practice is to first encourage your student to apply to college, get accepted and pay their deposit, then ask for a deferral to do their Gap Year.

Because 90% + of Gap Year students are college-bound, it's important to note that a relationship must be built between them and the university they plan eventually to attend. This must be your student's first priority. AGA strongly supports an open and honest dialogue between students and their Admissions Counselors in order to establish clear admissions expectations as well as student goals. The fact that many Gap Year graduates can access greater amounts of merit-based aid is just icing on the cake to a better relationship with your Admissions Counselors. Communication with future academic institutions, advisors, Gap Year programs, and family members is key to a successful experience on the front, middle, and end of a student's Gap Year. Many universities will request that a student be transparent with their Gap Year plans from the start. Throughout the course of a Gap Year, universities may request updates as a form of continued recruitment and to identify any potential obstructions to eventual enrolment at their institution. It is possible that the student may re-evaluate a desired university’s fit after their Gap Year, as the student may have gained greater clarity about their goals in higher education.

At the end of a student's Gap Year, we advise that counselors make a point of working directly with the student to help direct them towards their academic goals, which may now be more defined or clarified. It is important to focus on ways that Gap Year graduates can best be incorporated into campus life after their travels. Early data by Robert Clagett (former Dean of Admissions at Middlebury and Financial Aid & Admissions at Harvard) clearly shows that Gap Year graduates are generally more engaged in campus life and that these students will often serve as hubs for campus life if given a bit of support and direction.


  • Reliable communication between students, potential programs, academic institutions, and you as a counselor is key
  • Gap Years should be designed with the student's future academic and career goals in mind
  • It is vital that Gap Year students apply to university before leaving on their Gap Year and adhere to deferral policies
  • Check in with your students before, during, and after their Gap Year to help them stay on track for academic success

Read more about college advice for Gap Year students here.

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