Preparing for College

Re-Applying to College During Gap Year

Question: I graduated from high school this May and am taking a year off. Can I apply to more colleges during my gap year since I am not satisfied with my current choice?

It's not uncommon for "gappers" to rethink their colleges choices during their time away. Certainly, if your goals or interests change during your time off, you may decide that the school that seemed right for you as a high school senior may not be such a good fit after all.

However, the biggest mistake that gap-year applicants make is to assume that the year away will be a springboard into colleges that already turned them down. Chances are, if admission officials said "No" to you already, then it's highly unlikely that they'll change their minds unless you can provide proof of a successful academic experience elsewhere rather than a non-academic one. On the other hand, there are occasional stories of students who have re-applied to colleges that denied them as high school students and have reversed those decisions after showing new maturity or accomplishments based on gap-year achievements. But I caution you that this is rare. Similarly, some gappers think that a year away will be the ticket to more competitive colleges than those that would have admitted them straight from high school. Once again, this can sometimes prove true, but not often without added academic achievement. Thus, your chances of admission will be best if you apply to new colleges that are different from those on your original list but probably not more selective (unless, of course, you feel you aimed too low the first time around, and that does happen.)

If you have already been admitted to college and have sent in a deposit to hold your place, you should notify this college once you have been admitted elsewhere and expect to lose your deposit. When applying to new colleges, you should be honest about your situation. In a supplemental letter or essay, tell admission officials what your original plans were and why and how they've changed. Be as specific as possible, explaining why you now feel that their institution is the right choice for you. If your new college offers particular academic programs that meet your current needs, be sure to say so.

Finally, use your gap year wisely. When re-applying to colleges, admission officials will be looking for evidence that you have profited from this time away.