It may seem like everyone goes straight from senior year of high school to their freshman year of college, but that's not always the case.

There are students who get accepted and then decide to take time off instead of heading directly to college. If you’re debating deferring acceptance, it may help to hear the stories of other students who made that decision and how they made the most of their gap year. 

I Learned Life Skills

After what he calls a “grueling high school experience,” William S. decided to defer his acceptance to Stanford University for a year. During his gap year, he’s taken on a series of internships and applied for scholarships—the latter of which he admitted he “dropped the ball on” in high school. Through interning, William says he developed both personal and professional skills that will aid him in college, including computer programming, cooking, networking, and time management. He feels like he will especially benefit from the time management skills. “During high school, 85% of my task list had been assigned to me,” he says. Now he knows how to complete self-assigned tasks and work without teacher-mandated deadlines. Mastering these skills has been empowering for him and he knows they’ll serve him well when he heads off to college. 

I Earned Money for College

Vanessa Miranda deferred acceptance at Raritan Valley Community College so she could work for a full year to earn tuition money. “This time was actually very helpful because I realized I needed to make a lot more money just for necessities alone,” she says. While she initially took the time off for financial reasons, Miranda credits the deferral as helping her get the most value from her education because she was able to think about her goals and reasons for going to college. Thanks to her gap year, she says, “I put so much more effort into school than if I had gone right in, not knowing what I wanted to get out of a college education.”

I Found My Calling

Emily Perry deferred college to volunteer. “I decided to go to Africa for the better part of the year to volunteer teach about HIV/AIDS and care for orphans,” she says. The gap year travel to South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia shaped her career and her worldview. She realized how important education is, both in the global sense and to her personally. Perry went on to found QuillBot, an artificial intelligence platform to aid non-native English speakers with writing. Deferring college allowed her to pinpoint her calling: creating free tools to democratize education. 

I Bolstered My Résumé for Graduate School

Precious Hardy taught English to middle and high school students in China and aided in a research project for a year after deferring acceptance to Lincoln University of Missouri. After returning home, she spent the remainder of her gap year working at the St. Louis Science Center as a research assistant. 

“I gained insight and experience into curriculum development, motivational methods to increase student engagement, cultural awareness, qualitative methodologies, and classroom management skills among other things,” Hardy says of her gap year learnings. She’s now pursuing a PhD in educational psychology and credits her time teaching and researching with making her a more competitive applicant for her program and also with her smooth transition to graduate coursework. 

These students all used their time off to better prepare themselves for college. If you’re debating college acceptance deferral, be sure you have a strategy to use your gap year wisely. With the right goals and plan, taking time off before school could be a beneficial decision for your future.

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