The Ivy Coach Daily

April 27, 2022

The Gap Year Mistake

Too many parents and students are laser focused on gap years after college rejections.

We can’t tell you how many parents who first come to us after their children more or less strike out in the highly selective college admissions process are of the mind that their children should take a gap year and then re-apply to colleges. And they’re so utterly convinced this is in the best interest of their children. And, heck, if you read The Wall Street Journal, you’d be convinced too. As Alex Janin writes for The Wall Street Journal in a piece entitled “Seeking College-Admissions Edge, More Students Take Gap Year,” “Rising rejections at highly-selective colleges and hopes for better luck in a year are pushing more seniors to take a yearlong pause after high school. For the 2020-21 academic year, 130,000 students took gap years, according to the nonprofit Gap Year Association, with many of these early-pandemic gap-year students deferring enrollment to wait for the full college experience. That is up from between 40,000 and 60,000 students before the pandemic.” But always keep in mind your source. Do you think the Gap Year Association, nonprofit or not, is going to say that taking a gap year is going to scare off many an admissions officer at elite universities? We didn’t think so.

As loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, we don’t sugarcoat anything about the college admissions process because we believe students and parents are better served with the cold, hard truth. And the cold, hard truth is that when a student is a year outside of a high school curriculum, many admissions officers get scared. Does the student remember calculus? Has the student’s brain gone to mush so many months after completing high school? And, with the notable exception of students who take a postgraduate (PG) year at a high school after their high school graduation, no matter what a student does during that gap year, no matter how prestigious of a pursuit parents may think it is, these fears of admissions officers will not be alleviated.

Wondering about Ivy Coach’s advice to students who first come to us after more or less striking out in the highly selective college admissions process? It’s simple. If you’re not willing to do a PG year at a school that offers PG years, go to the best university you got into — and then transfer. In fact, work on your transfer applications this coming summer so they’re basically all ready to submit come March (save for some changes based on what you’ve been doing while in college — though we help map all this out for students the summer before they matriculate). This way, you can enjoy your first year of college and forget about the transfer process. You can get great grades in interesting courses, make wonderful new friends, and live! And, in our view, your odds of getting into a top university are much stronger as a transfer than after taking a gap year — no matter how prestigious your parents may think your gap year activity may be.

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