Writing The Right College Essay After Taking a Gap Year

February 10, 2016
Year On TeamCollege

Thinking about taking time off from school to take a gap year? Great! But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about your options around the bend. For many of you, college will be the most viable option and you will need to answer questions like: How can I appeal to college admissions staff? And, How can I stand out amongst the crowd?

Here are five tips to make the most of your circumstances and connect powerfully with admissions officers in your application essays:

  1. Be honest: What did you learn and do during your time off? How have you grown and changed? What are your specific professional goals and aspirations, and how have they unfolded during your time away? Your time between school at a program like Year On can yield stories that create a connection to your academic goals. Reflect on how your experiences outside of the usual college path inform your new plans and choices.
  2. Select colleges that are a strong fit: Often students who have taken time off know themselves and their needs. Make the most of your knowledge and experience, and look for colleges that are a good match for your learning style and professional aspirations.
  3. Be strategic: Know how to use the application. If you are coming back to school after transferring, use each section of your transfer application to present a unique aspect of your character. For example, use the activity essay to discuss the work you did away from school. Use the additional information section to upload a resume of work experience or art shows—or whatever you’ve been up to that’s out of the ordinary!
  4. Give yourself plenty of time to secure transcripts and recommendations: If you’ve been away from the high school setting, your teachers may not be teaching at your high school. If possible, try to meet with your “recommenders” in person and provide them with samples of the work you did in their classes. Make it easy for them to write you a strong and specific letter of recommendation by giving them a few talking points about what you achieved in school and what you’ve done since. Consider using the optional third letter of recommendation for someone who can speak about your work and leadership during your time away from school. And if you’ve taken classes part-time, remember to submit those transcripts along with your high school transcripts to every place you are applying.
  5. Find opportunities to connect: Take advantage of interview opportunities to learn about the school, meet and talk with admissions officers and alumni, and show them your commitment. Even if the school does not offer interviews for transfer applicants, try to visit the campus, including classes and even meeting with professors if there is a specific program you are applying to transfer into.

More and more colleges value the non-school details of students’ lives—the stories and idiosyncrasies that show who you really are. So make sure to include your unique stories and perspectives in your transfer application.

Want more info? Sign up here to learn how to connect your experiences to your college story!

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