Many parents become nervous when their children ask for a break in their studies before university. However, according to Ffiona Rees, the Deputy Director of Admissions at the University of California, Los Angeles, “universities are very familiar with students taking gap years.
There are dozens of reasons why a student may choose to take a gap year but whatever the rationale, the maturation, independence, and lived experiences will leave a lasting impact. Having an additional year to explore interests independently, while also learning more about themselves (and their future academic interests), is an amazing opportunity.”
A common Aiglon experience
Nearly 10% of Aiglon’s most recently graduated class has chosen a gap year as their next adventure. Some students submitted university applications last year and have deferred their enrollment, while others will be focusing on the application process as the first mission of their gap year. The reasons Aiglonians chose a gap year range from fulfilling military requirements to learning a new language and taking on internship opportunities to studying for medical school entrance exams. A few students even chose to postpone applications to allow them to fully focus all energy on their IB coursework and final exam preparation, and during their gap year they have more time to concentrate on the application process plus they are applying with their final IB results in hand!
Have a plan
“Georgetown University encourages students to take a gap year!” Senior Associate Director of Admissions, Kathryn Timlin, tells students, “Follow your passions: travel, volunteer, explore, and learn. Take on experiences that will transform your point of view. We can't wait to see and hear what new ideas you will bring to our campus!” Students should be aware, however, not all gap years are created (or respected) equally. It is important to have a plan and to be well-organised. Students planning to wow admission committees with their gap year experiences need to be sure those activities are completed (or at least well underway) by the time they submit their applications. Universities are eager to hear what a gap year student has planned but what really counts is what you have already accomplished so keep the application timeline in mind when planning.
We are here to help!
University Advisors at Aiglon are available to discuss individually with students regarding gap year options, application strategies and whether it is the right path, keeping in mind that it might not be a good decision for everyone. We can assist students in planning their gap year and, many parents are relieved to know, our department continues to support Aiglon alumni throughout the application process. Knowing what to prioritise during your year off can be overwhelming, which is why it is important to have a plan, and knowing what to highlight in your applications can be confusing so be sure to follow your advisors’ guidance regarding what universities are looking for.
Lisa Mortini, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at New York University, shares “When I come across applications from gap-year students, I ask myself: ‘What are they doing to improve themselves during that time? Most importantly, what are they doing to improve the world around them?’ I expect them to start showing signs of self-aware maturity and a keener sense of what they wish to accomplish at university.” These are important aspects to keep in mind while considering a gap year as well as preparing university applications.
Is a gap year something you’d like to consider for yourself or your children? Discuss the possible benefits further with your University Advisor and remember it does not disadvantage university applicants, even to highly-selective institutions of higher education.
About Edith Miletto
Mrs Miletto is Associate Director in Aiglon's University Advising Department. Edi grew up in North Carolina, USA before moving to Switzerland in 2003. She is a member of the International Association for College Admission Counselling (ACAC) as well as CIS and SGIS. Edi regularly visits university campuses around the world in order to help Aiglon students.