In our last post, we debunked some popular misconceptions about gap years and why taking some time off between your senior year of high school and first year of university might be the right option for you.

Have you been contemplating the possibility of a gap year? If so, here are some important “dos” to consider when exploring your options:

1. DO plan out what you would like to accomplish during the gap year

– It is important to think about what you want to do or learn before you head to college, whether it is a community service project or a new language. Perhaps you would like to gain some real world experience interning with a company or individual in the chosen field. Knowing what you would like to accomplish is the first step in planning.

2. DO consider your financial situation

– There are a lot of options for the gap year including paid work, work and travel, paid and unpaid internships, etc. Talk to your parents or guardians and understand your financial situation so you can plan your gap year more efficiently and realistically.

3. DO evaluate a gap year against your long term career goals

– While not everyone has their long term plans and goals figured out by the end of high school, consider cultivating a specific skill-set that may make you more employable or give you an edge above your peers, for example proficiency in a language, programming expertise, or lab experience.

4. DO evaluate a gap year against your long term educational plans

– Most conventional bachelors degrees in the UK are 3 years long and, in the US, 4 years long, but you may also have plans for postgraduate and even doctoral study. A gap year may add a year on to your overall life plan, and you need to think carefully about whether this makes sense for you.

5. DO apply to college while you are a senior in high school

– Colleges have become increasingly accepting of deferrals to admit a more dedicated and matured student after their gap year. Typically, it is advisable to apply to your chosen universities with the help of your current high school rather than waiting until you are already on your gap year.

6. DO check with the colleges you plan to apply to regarding when you have to inform them about taking a gap year

– Some US colleges may require you to declare your intention up-front with your application while others only need to be told once you have been accepted. In the second case, once you have all your acceptances, you would send a letter to the college requesting them to grant you a deferral and outlining your constructive plans for the gap year. For UK universities, a deferral request can be submitted via UCAS along with reasons for the deferral request, with the gap year plans mentioned in the Personal Statement. It is important to know what the colleges you are applying to expect from you before you make your decision.

7. DO talk to your college about how a gap year could affect your scholarships/financial aid

– Some colleges are willing to defer the scholarships and financial support.

8. DO consider Bridge Programs

– Some schools also offer Bridge Programs which integrate a gap year into the curriculum. In the US, this has recently gained momentum and some colleges, including Princeton University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, offer fellowship programs for incoming students to defer their start date and experience new opportunities abroad.

9. DO research travel restrictions and requirements

– If you plan to travel, especially abroad, do you need visas? Are there work restrictions? Do you need certain vaccines? The answers to these questions may change the way you plan the year.