Entering college after your senior year of high school may not be for everyone. Instead, some prefer to take off a semester.

Missy Rose, director of college guidance at Laurel School in Shaker Heights; Renee Bischoff, director of college counseling at Hawken School in Chester Township; and Jennifer Beros, director of college counseling at University School in Hunting Valley, said for some students deferring a semester can help the motivate student, especially if they feel burned out from high school.

“While academically, (the student) may be ready for college but socially, they might not be ready,” Rose said. “Another reason can be that they feel burned out from working hard in high school and they just can’t imagine getting back into that with only a two-month break. They might want to use their brain in a different way.”

Rose mentioned students should feel OK about their decision, especially if they feel a need to stay home to do something different. 

Beros said when taking a gap semester, the students can experience something new without missing a whole year of college.

“If (their) senior year was challenging and they feel like they need a break or if there was an illness or family issue, it lets them arrive at college essentially with the ability to engage more fully and let them start college in a better place,” Beros said.

All three professionals said high school graduates can experience life during a gap semester. Holding a job, enjoying time alone and traveling are all viable options. 

Bischoff said some colleges offer fall travel experiences by way of deferring a semester. 

“These travel experiences can be really transformative,” she said. “This can allow genuine friendships to be created when traveling as opposed to coming to school and not having friends right away.”

Beros said, “I think traveling is a big one, particularly if a student wants to go to a part of the world and engage somewhere to get that experience, but not do it for an entire year. Being able to do that can help (the student) approach school later more fully.”

Rose noted these options are an ideal way to further personal development.

“Regardless of what they do, it’s a heightened sense of responsibility when they are out of school,” she said. “They will be meeting different people that they would not have encountered in other settings. In talking to students who have done it, they are proud of themselves for whatever experience they were able to put together. It can then show them that there are a lot of different ways to get to that result, alternative paths.”

Bischoff said some schools offer a late acceptance start, such as a winter start. 

“We have students who are given those options as the first acceptance,” she said. “It can be a challenging space for families who don’t understand why their student wasn’t accepted in the fall. These students can use the time in the fall to do what they want to do.”

She noted some students find it difficult to see benefits of taking a gap semester, especially if they didn’t choose it for themselves and the university accepted them as a winter start. 

“I think when the college either has a plan for the student and lays out what they could do in the fall and create a community, they then rapidly see the benefits,” Bischoff said. “They get to have three months to do something completely different. For the students that this is their only choice, it can seem a bit disorientating and disconnected.”

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