Gap year AFTER Freshmen Year of College?

Does anyone have thoughts, advice, or kids with experience taking a gap year after their freshman year of college? My freshman student is at a school that is not a good fit. He has made friends, is not home sick, is getting good it is not a "Freshman year can be hard" thing. The small LAC he is at is just not a good fit for him. He has missed the transfer application deadline and we are discussing a gap year and reapplying during that year. He does not want to just get a job locally and take classes at a community college but rather to figure out something meaningful and interesting to do. (He is also willing to do that but wants to make sure he is doing something that sets him up for social interaction and structure.) We can look at traditional gap year programs but I am seeking feedback about anyone's experience of taking a gap year after one year of college and any advice that could be specific to this situation. Also, if you have thoughts about applying to selective schools after taking a year off and what factors we might consider around that. Thank you. 

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

My cousin did something similar. She took a year off after her sophomore year and studied abroad in Italy. She was able to get the experience of living in Europe for year while at the same time taking classes and making sure she would still graduate on time. She really enjoyed her time there. I don't know the deadlines for european schools and your son might have to apply for just the spring term but that might be a good option.

My daughter did this exact thing, and it worked out just fine.  She actually took a gap year before starting college, too!  That first gap year was spent abroad, working with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and she loved it.  Then she went off to Oberlin as planned, and it just wasn't the right fit for her.  She took the following year off, moved home, worked as a nanny, and figured out next steps.  Turned out that her experience with WWOOF had been life-changing; she went back the following year, to Sterling College in Vermont, and finished her BA in Sustainable Agriculture. - Does your son really want to take the gap year, or is he thinking about it only because of the missed deadlines to transfer?  If the latter, and he has schools in mind, perhaps they'd accept a late application, with an explanatory letter?  I may be wrong about this, but I had the idea that it's easier to get into the more selective schools as a transfer than as an applicant not currently enrolled.  (On the other hand, if he does something really interesting next year, it could make his application stand out.  And of course, "selective" schools aren't the only ones out there, nor are they necessarily the best choice for every kid, even if they have the grades!)  If he really wants to do the gap year, it's hard to offer recommendations without having a sense of his interests and goals (but WWOOF is a terrific program!).  I think the main thing is to encourage him to have the courage and confidence to do what's right for him, even if it means he's veering off the path you had envisioned.  I'm happy to talk further about this if you'd like.

I took one gap year between high school and college and worked full time in a bank in the foreign exchange trading division. I took a second gap year after freshman year of college and backpacked around Europe. I then came home finished my finance degree and got a job on wall st and pushed hard into my career for the next decade. My parents were extremely opposed to me taking either gap year but I was burned out from studying and was so done with being told what to do. I just needed a break to pause and find out who I was and what I wanted in my life. I knew I wanted to work and earn money the first gap year and my parents helped me find something interesting and meaningful to me. I wasn’t taking advice from my parents at that point but I definitely listened to career advice from my new and interesting colleagues at work (something to consider for your son). They told to go to college and what to study (things my parents told me before) but I listened to these new people in my life. At college I again felt burned out from study and took a year to go to Europe. It was the most amazing trip and because it was during college it has never ever mattered to my career. Never a question of why I did that. I saw the world, met my future husband, and found myself in a way I never had before. I came home determined and clear on my goals. I rapidly finished college and moved to New York eager to get to work. I don’t have any real advice for you other than trust your so to work out what he needs, don’t worry if he seems behind by a year or two as he figures it out, and get some good mentors in his life to help him figure it out bc he will listen to them more than you. Good luck. 

Hi, I took a gap year before going to college and found it a great experience. I experienced something like what your student is going through once I began college so I took another gap year after my sophomore year. It was the best thing I ever did. I returned to college after my second gap year and transferred to a better fit and better quality school. Gap year programs didn't exist in those days so I created my own experiences both times traveling and working abroad and in different parts of the US. I suggest, though, that he figure out plans for the year following before he starts. One thing I learned from my gap year(s) is that it is a real immersion experience. I found myself not wanting to be "pulled away" by figuring out my college plans for the next year. I know that's probably difficult as you mention having missed the transfer deadlines. One thing that may provide some structure is to discuss getting field credit for whatever he ends up doing. I worked with one of my professors on that and we designed an experience where I went to teach on the Navajo reservation for part of my second gap year experience. I found that worked very well as it gave me direction and a real purpose. Email didn't exist and there were only a few phone lines where I was so I didn't communicate at all with my professor during the experience. I think that would have enhanced my experience and is certainly much more feasible today. I'm happy to discuss in more detail if you want to contact me directly.