Are you thinking about taking a gap year between high school and college?
Teachers, parent, and friends may have advised you to apply to college and then ask to defer admission for a year once you are accepted. But, this strategy doesn’t work for everyone. After all, getting into a university is intensely competitive, so there’s no guarantee you will get into the school of your dreams straight out of high school.
And some high school graduates may want to take time off to figure out their finances or decide if college is the appropriate next step. Regardless of the reason, if you choose to apply to college later, spend your gap year strengthening your application with these strategies:
- Do a social media makeover.
You better believe college admissions officers visit every serious applicant’s social media profile before making a decision. You don’t need to delete all of your pages or set your profile to the most restrictive privacy settings. Universities like to be able to find you, but keep in mind what they see will help them form an impression of who you are.
To make a strong first impression, think about your digital brand. Do a Google search and see what pops up and what is visible on your social media profiles when someone who is not a friend searches for it. Make sure the educational and work history is up-to-date on Facebook, and also consider building a LinkedIn profile to show you are serious about your future.
Even if you haven’t uploaded any inappropriate photos, you may have been tagged in some that show up on your page. Click through all of your photos and untag yourself or delete any that you wouldn’t want a college admissions representative to see. Don’t forget to do the same on your posts – go through each and make sure you aren’t using offensive language or sharing inappropriate articles or memes. If you can’t decide whether to keep something or delete it, think, “would I want my grandmother to see this?” If you wouldn’t, then you probably won’t want an admissions representative to see it either.
2. Talk to alumni.
Since you have a bit of time before applications are due, use it to your advantage by contacting the alumni departments of the schools you are interested in. See if there are any local graduates you can meet to ask more about the school and what your life will be like if you attend.
If no alumni live nearby, use social media to your advantage. Reach out to graduates through LinkedIn but don’t just send a basic “connect” request. Instead, write them about why you are contacting them and what you hope to gain from your relationship. Tell them you would like to learn more about the university and how their alma mater helped them in their careers. If you make it more about their lives, they will be more interested in responding.
If you like what you hear and end up applying, be sure to include this on your college application. Universities will be impressed you took the initiative to connect with the alumni network on your own.
3. Retake tests.
Take a hard look at your scores to determine whether you should use your gap year to retake the SAT, ACT or other tests.
First, determine why you scored the way you did. For example, you didn’t read the questions and answers carefully, you ran out of time, or you simply did not know the answer. Once you identify what caused you to lose points, you will have a better idea of how to move forward.
4. Take a few courses.
The point of a gap year is to take a little breather from school, but some students enroll in an online course or two, or take classes at a local community college or university.
Proving you can do college-level academic work is likely to bolster your application. However, there is no guarantee that a college will accept the credits.
If you don’t have the financial resources to take college level courses, choose another type of class that will strengthen your resume. Universities are looking for well-rounded students, so find classes in your community that will teach you new skills, such as a new language.
5. Get a recommendation letter.
If you decide to take college level courses, be sure to ask the instructor or teaching assistant for a recommendation letter afterwards. Many applicants get recommendations from their high school teachers, but having a college instructor recommend you will be much more impressive.