6. What do college admissions officials think of gap years?
College admission officials have become more accepting of the gap year over the past several years. Some even encourage their admitted students to take one. For more than 30 years, Harvard's acceptance letters have included a suggestion that students take time off before enrolling. Fitzsimmons encourages students to take a gap year so they don't burn out in college. Those who come to school after a gap year are "so fresh, anxious, and excited to be back in school," he says. "The feedback from students almost all the time has been that this experience was transformative. The more life experience you bring, the better off you are in school." In 2009, a near-record 107 of the 1,665 Harvard freshmen had taken a gap year.
At Binghamton, Brown has also noticed an increase in the number of students taking a gap year. In 2009, 52 of approximately 2,100 freshmen deferred for a year to work or volunteer. Brown says she's only seen positive results from these students. "I think the increased maturity, self confidence, sense of problem solving, and recognition that they can do these kinds of wonderful things only serves them well in their college experience," she says.
7. Will it be hard to transition to college after a gap year?
"Students who are going to college after a gap year are going into it more mature and better prepared than others," says White, of Darien Academic Advisors. Many of these students have some apprehension about returning to the classroom, but are able to transition easily because they have already been away from home, White says. Carr, who just finished a gap year, plans to work in her hometown of Princeton, N.J., this summer and possibly this fall, and apply to Colorado College for the spring 2011 semester. "I'm excited to go back to school. I really want to continue the learning process," she says. "However, I think it's going to be really hard at first, to have to write papers and study for tests. It will be a transition. I'll have to adapt to that environment again." But Carr says that, if anything, the gap year experience has taught her to adapt well to new locales, anywhere from Cape Town to Colorado.
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