She came to me explaining she would not be attending college next year.
It wasn’t just the lack of money, but she had found a job. I was worried
this student would never increase her skill set. She would never receive
any training beyond high school. Her support system was lukewarm at
best and the need for money was great. She would become another student
who lost her dream.
Then she told me her plan. She would work as an assistant to the veterinarian
and animal rehab specialist at the local zoo. Her long term plans were to
become a wildlife rehab specialist and this job would give her hands on
experience, even before she started college.
After a year, she would re-evaluate her college plans. She may attend part-time
or full-time depending on the recommendations of her employer and his needs.
She planned to start at community college so there was no need to apply for an
This student’s plans are the definition of a successful gap year. She was gaining
experience that directly related to her chosen major. She was doing something to
move forward in her life. She wasn’t simply vacationing, hiking, hanging out,
or avoiding hard things. Yes, some students must work to earn money for college,
but that becomes part of a plan: work one year, save a certain amount of money,
and apply for college at this date, attend community college part time and then
transfer to the 4 year school.
Most students will apply to college during their senior year of high school.
Once admitted, the student planning a gap year will pay the deposit and then
formally request a deferral of admission for one year. If the student presents the
plan and promises a journal or report on the gap year, most colleges will accept
the request. Some colleges don’t want to manage the challenges gap years create
for admissions planning so do your research first to be certain your chosen
colleges will work with the gap year.
Regardless of your financial situation, you can have a successful gap year. Plan to
improve your education and skill set. You must keep a journal so that you can
show and tell your future college what you accomplished. Then not only will you
be a bit older and more mature than your class, you will also have significant
more USEFUL knowledge.
Susan Teerlink is the accountability and admissions coach for College Funding Advisors, LLC,
located in Harrisonburg, VA. She was also a co-author on the book Secrets Of How To Avoid
Overpaying For College and is involved with GRASP, the Great Aspirations Scholarship
Program, a non-profit based in Richmond, Virginia. You can read her other articles at