Deferring for a year is not popular in the U.S. Many people don’t even know what it is. When I told friends and family that I deferred from the University of MN and was taking a gap year, many responded with, “What’s a gap year?” Sometimes I feel that taking a gap year has a negative connotation in the States. Why would anyone want to take a gap year? They’re just putting off school for another year. They’re going to have to go eventually. Why wait? These are all thoughts I had before I sent in my request to take a gap year.
So what changed my mind? What I found while I was looking for colleges was that I didn’t have the drive to go to college yet. Many of my friends talked about how excited they were to be going to ____ school, or what they were going to major in, or what they wanted to do in college. I didn’t have any of those thoughts. My only thought was: Is there a school with a good study abroad program? I looked, and almost every school I looked at had amazing programs that I could join. But I couldn’t go to school just for the study abroad. I tried to look at majors. It was overwhelming. There were majors, minors, double majors, double minors, major and minor, etc. There could be 15 different schools in one university, and hundreds of majors and minors in one school. For some, that’s amazing. They need the options to choose freely. I needed time to sort out my mind.
My college list changed almost every week. I added schools, removed schools, and re-added schools. I finally had a list, but I wasn’t happy with it. And by the time I wanted to change it again, it was too late. I had sent in my applications and was now getting responses. I was accepted into some schools, deferred to regular decision from Early Action, and flat out denied. But none of it really made a difference to me. Everyone around me knew what they wanted, but I couldn’t get that “Yes I want to go here” feeling. It was actually my mom who told me to take the gap year. Her reasoning: I had no idea which school I wanted to go to, and she didn’t want me to “wander aimlessly” around campus, wasting a year and tuition, without doing anything that I truly wanted to do. So I started looking for gap year abroad programs because traveling was what I was really passionate about. Looking for study abroad programs was so much easier for me and came much more naturally. I knew which countries I wanted to go to, and I knew I wanted something else to bolster my resume.
Having the extra summer to travel and visit even more schools, I re-applied to colleges and universities that I knew I would want to go to in the fall. My advice if you’re deciding on a gap year is to still go through the college application process because one, you will at least have a back-up school you can defer from, and two, if you decide to re-apply to different schools, you will be so much more accustomed to the college process, that it will be a lot easier the second time.
So far, my gap year has been amazing. Even though I didn’t get to travel to Korea for a language program, I was able to get a job, “college-hop” and visit my friends, go on family vacations, and intern at a company in Berlin without the stress of college, studying, or anything else. I’ve met people around the country and the world, and I was able to do something that I was passionate about. A gap year is a time for you to treat yourself and find out what your true passions are.