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Will taking a gap year help me get into the Ivy League?
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/will-taking-a-gap-year-help-me-get-into-the-ivy-league-927

Posted: 2016-05-05

by Kathryn Flynn

President Obama's oldest daughter, Malia, is heading to the Ivy League. Yet although she'll graduate from high school this spring, she won't be enrolling in Harvard until the fall of 2017- that's after she takes a year to explore personal interests outside the classroom. Her announcement has sparked an interest in gap years for families as well as higher education professionals.

It's been a particularly hot topic for the American Gap Association, especially since the news was made public on the first day of their 2nd annual conference in Boston. The organization's primary focus is to increase awareness of gap years, and many in the field have been working for decades to convince families of their benefits.

Jason Sarouhan, Vice President of the Center for Interim Programs, a gap year consulting firm, attended the conference and was excited to hear about the First Daughter's decision.

"I, and many others in this field, appreciate the symbolism in Malia's decision and what it represents to so many students across the country," he says. "Here is this highly-achieved young woman who ostensibly could pursue any path that she chose. She has an acceptance at one of the most prestigious schools in the country and yet she is drawing a line in the sand that says that while academics and her professional success will be of high importance to her, living a balanced life, developing a holistic set of experiences and cultivating interests is a priority as well."

"Whatever Malia chooses to do with this time, we hope that she challenges herself so that she can go on to college an even stronger, wiser and more empathetic adult and leader in her community," says Sarouhan.

The idea of taking a gap year before college began in the U.K. during the 1960s, and while it hasn't completely caught on in the U.S., it's popularity been on the rise. In fact, according to the nonprofit organization CIEE, Harvard has seen a 33% increase in the number of incoming students postponing enrollment.

Yet not every college is on board with the idea, so those planning to take a gap year should keep a few things in mind.

RELATED: Using 529 plan savings to pay for a gap year

When to apply to college if taking a gap year

In Sarouhan's experience, many students will wait until they get an acceptance letter from a college and then ask to defer acceptance until after they take a gap year. In these cases, the gap year experience would have zero effect on the admissions decision, since the student was already accepted. However, some schools, such as the University of California, do not grant deferrals on a regular basis, so students taking a gap year are encouraged to reapply during their time off.

Yet other colleges prefer that students be up front about their plans when they apply, and many offer a check box on the application for those who intend on taking a gap year. And, according to Sarouhan, "These schools have gone as far as to suggest that this declaration has a positive impact on acceptance."

Does a gap year help your chances of getting into a prestigious school?

In most cases, a gap year is viewed positively on a college application, depending on how the student spends their time. In fact, Lulu Curiel, founder of Ivy Advisors, says that students can use a gap year to gain the type of experience Ivy League schools are looking for.

"More than ever, recruiters are looking for people who demonstrate working knowledge and experience in a certain field of practice," says Curiel. "Whether it's working with a particular organization, project, or startup, the gap year could provide a jumpstart to someone's career. Similarly, that gap year could be about exploring a passion, such as volunteering abroad, working with children, or many other opportunities. Used wisely and productively, a gap year is an excellent opportunity to stand out amongst the crowd."

RELATED: 6 steps to landing in the Ivy Leagues

Sarouhan agrees that students can use their gap time to improve their chances for Ivy League success.

"Whatever compelling experiences one has during that post senior year summer and subsequent fall are excellent fodder for one's résumé, college essays and general testimony to one's personal growth," he says. "Colleges appreciate mature students who arrive on campus rested, focused and curious. Gap year has been shown time and again to have this outcome for students courageous enough to take them."

Risks involved

Yet just like any potential reward, there are risks that come along with taking a gap year.

"If not planned well, taking a gap year could be a risky move," says Curiel. "It is not intended for students who want to just 'wing it' and 'see what happens'. To maximize your chances for the Ivy Leagues it is important to first ask yourself what you would get out of this year that you couldn't otherwise get."

And students who wait until their gap year to apply or re-apply to include the experience on their application should be aware of any rules the school may have regarding deferrals.

"We have received several acceptance letters from students this year alone that suggest the following criteria for a student who wants to take gap time," he says.

  1. Deferred students may not enroll as a full-time student at another college/university.
  2. Deferred students may not take college level classes for which they hope to gain credit. If a student wants credit for classes taken elsewhere, he or she must reapply as a transfer student and admission is not guaranteed.
  3. Deferred students may not apply for admission at any other college or university either in the United States or internationally.

"Though consequences for the last stipulation remain vague, the implication is that a) there is a system in place that could be accessed to cross-check that application has not been made elsewhere and b) that a student's acceptance could be rescinded if it is discovered that a student did indeed apply to other schools," he warns. "We have heard stories on both sides; those of students losing their spots and those of students who were accepted at a school that they preferred," he says.

RELATED: How younger students can build a competitive profile for the Ivy League

President Obama's oldest daughter, Malia, is heading to the Ivy League. Yet although she'll graduate from high school this spring, she won't be enrolling in Harvard until the fall of 2017- that's after she takes a year to explore personal interests outside the classroom. Her announcement has sparked an interest in gap years for families as well as higher education professionals.

It's been a particularly hot topic for the American Gap Association, especially since the news was made public on the first day of their 2nd annual conference in Boston. The organization's primary focus is to increase awareness of gap years, and many in the field have been working for decades to convince families of their benefits.

Jason Sarouhan, Vice President of the Center for Interim Programs, a gap year consulting firm, attended the conference and was excited to hear about the First Daughter's decision.

"I, and many others in this field, appreciate the symbolism in Malia's decision and what it represents to so many students across the country," he says. "Here is this highly-achieved young woman who ostensibly could pursue any path that she chose. She has an acceptance at one of the most prestigious schools in the country and yet she is drawing a line in the sand that says that while academics and her professional success will be of high importance to her, living a balanced life, developing a holistic set of experiences and cultivating interests is a priority as well."

"Whatever Malia chooses to do with this time, we hope that she challenges herself so that she can go on to college an even stronger, wiser and more empathetic adult and leader in her community," says Sarouhan.

The idea of taking a gap year before college began in the U.K. during the 1960s, and while it hasn't completely caught on in the U.S., it's popularity been on the rise. In fact, according to the nonprofit organization CIEE, Harvard has seen a 33% increase in the number of incoming students postponing enrollment.

Yet not every college is on board with the idea, so those planning to take a gap year should keep a few things in mind.

RELATED: Using 529 plan savings to pay for a gap year

When to apply to college if taking a gap year

In Sarouhan's experience, many students will wait until they get an acceptance letter from a college and then ask to defer acceptance until after they take a gap year. In these cases, the gap year experience would have zero effect on the admissions decision, since the student was already accepted. However, some schools, such as the University of California, do not grant deferrals on a regular basis, so students taking a gap year are encouraged to reapply during their time off.

Yet other colleges prefer that students be up front about their plans when they apply, and many offer a check box on the application for those who intend on taking a gap year. And, according to Sarouhan, "These schools have gone as far as to suggest that this declaration has a positive impact on acceptance."

Does a gap year help your chances of getting into a prestigious school?

In most cases, a gap year is viewed positively on a college application, depending on how the student spends their time. In fact, Lulu Curiel, founder of Ivy Advisors, says that students can use a gap year to gain the type of experience Ivy League schools are looking for.

"More than ever, recruiters are looking for people who demonstrate working knowledge and experience in a certain field of practice," says Curiel. "Whether it's working with a particular organization, project, or startup, the gap year could provide a jumpstart to someone's career. Similarly, that gap year could be about exploring a passion, such as volunteering abroad, working with children, or many other opportunities. Used wisely and productively, a gap year is an excellent opportunity to stand out amongst the crowd."

RELATED: 6 steps to landing in the Ivy Leagues

Sarouhan agrees that students can use their gap time to improve their chances for Ivy League success.

"Whatever compelling experiences one has during that post senior year summer and subsequent fall are excellent fodder for one's résumé, college essays and general testimony to one's personal growth," he says. "Colleges appreciate mature students who arrive on campus rested, focused and curious. Gap year has been shown time and again to have this outcome for students courageous enough to take them."

Risks involved

Yet just like any potential reward, there are risks that come along with taking a gap year.

"If not planned well, taking a gap year could be a risky move," says Curiel. "It is not intended for students who want to just 'wing it' and 'see what happens'. To maximize your chances for the Ivy Leagues it is important to first ask yourself what you would get out of this year that you couldn't otherwise get."

And students who wait until their gap year to apply or re-apply to include the experience on their application should be aware of any rules the school may have regarding deferrals.

"We have received several acceptance letters from students this year alone that suggest the following criteria for a student who wants to take gap time," he says.

  1. Deferred students may not enroll as a full-time student at another college/university.
  2. Deferred students may not take college level classes for which they hope to gain credit. If a student wants credit for classes taken elsewhere, he or she must reapply as a transfer student and admission is not guaranteed.
  3. Deferred students may not apply for admission at any other college or university either in the United States or internationally.

"Though consequences for the last stipulation remain vague, the implication is that a) there is a system in place that could be accessed to cross-check that application has not been made elsewhere and b) that a student's acceptance could be rescinded if it is discovered that a student did indeed apply to other schools," he warns. "We have heard stories on both sides; those of students losing their spots and those of students who were accepted at a school that they preferred," he says.

RELATED: How younger students can build a competitive profile for the Ivy League

 

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