The pros and cons of taking a year off between high school and college, a.k.a. “taking a gap year”
Pros: If done intentionally and with clear purpose, taking a gap year can be a year of growth and fulfillment. You can take a break from the study-test-repeat cycle of school and experience a different kind of education: traveling and learning about other countries and cultures, for example, or exploring an interest in depth. You may get to know yourself better, to learn who you are beyond being a student. If you’re younger than your classmates (as one of my clients is and as I was), it gives you time to catch up in age to next year’s freshman class. You can build your résumé and perhaps develop a profile that’s more attractive to colleges.
Cons: Notice the “if” clause at the start of the list of pros. If your gap year is just taking a break from school, you might not get around to college. Maybe you start waiting tables and find the money is too good to give up, so you put off starting your applications. (This actually happened to a former student of mine.) No longer in sync with your classmates from high school, you might lose your momentum and feel that you’ve been left behind. The key is to have a plan. Some colleges, including Harvard, allow you to defer your admission in order to take a gap year. If you fear that you might lose your way, consider applying now and deferring. Find out which of the schools that you’re interested in offer this option.