Gap Year: Ways to Improve College Applications and Readiness

How should you improve your applications if you take a gap year

Pixabay user Bella67

We’ve talked a bit about gap years before in the context of Should I take a gap year? The focus this time around is how to make the best of a gap year before applying to colleges. Or maybe you’ve been accepted into a school, but have deferred enrollment for a year. Whatever the case, here are some things to remember.

Improve Time Management Skills

Succeeding in college is hard work, and that is made all the more difficult if you are not great at managing your time. Self-motivation has a lot to do with this. During your year “off”, work on setting deadlines for yourself. Even the college search / application process can be of help. Writing application essays, doing research on schools, and filling out forms will help to add a little structure.

Talk About What You Learned

If you want to use your gap year experience to dazzle the College Admissions Office, you need to be able to articulate what has made the time off worth it. Did you learn new skills? Were you put in charge of a group? Did you figure out something new about yourself that you hadn’t realized before? Be specific about why this experience has benefitted you. Most importantly, keep it honest. If you think critically, there should be no reason to exaggerate what you’ve discovered.

Don’t Neglect Your Reading Skills

Regardless of your field of study, reading and the ability to research is necessary to be successful in school. Getting out of the habit will make it all the more difficult to start back up again. Take time every now and then to open a book or read over research papers. Plus, now you get to choose your own reading material!

Keep Your Gap Year Structured

If you are taking a gap year between high school and college, the most important thing is to have a plan. Give yourself structure with a job, volunteer work, travel, and other goals. Sitting around playing video games all day is not going to benefit you in any way. And, while it’s possible to make a decent essay out of your video game or TV-viewing experiences, it’s a little more interesting to talk about interacting with other people.

Establish Good Habits

If you struggled with learning in high school, it might be because you were trying to go against your learning styles. This is a great time to get to understand how you learn best because you can experiment and figure out which study habits work best for you. It’s much easier to bring habits into college than to try and begin new ones during the middle of the semester. This includes eating healthy, sleeping a reasonable amount, exercising regularly, etc. Being mentally, physically, and emotionally ready for college increases your chance of success.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the US—for FREE!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.