6 months ago
Admissions Advice

Gap year(s) after High School


I officially finished High School this summer (in Germany) and now have one year left due to dual enrollment. After that I graduate with the highest form of High School degree possible here (Abitur) and also am a CTA. I think of taking a Gap year after that to volunteer as a wildlife preservatist and attend some internships. Will this increase my chances of getting into an Ivy league school or rather decrease it since it would technically be 2 years since I left High school (I would be 19/20 when I would apply/attend).

Thank you for your time :)


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Accepted Answer
6 months ago[edited]

If your end goal is to attend an Ivy League College, then I think that you need to have another strategy that is focused less on volunteerism and work and more on Intellectual pursuits and having impactful ECs that are unique and impressive.

One very successful strategy for post-graduate high school students is to attend a TOP boarding school in the US like Phillips Exeter, Phillips Andover, Choate Rosemary Hall, Deerfield Academy, Lawrenceville, or Hotchkiss that offer PG years to those who have already graduated from high school.

The typical PG student is someone who is not quite good enough to become a recruited athlete who needs more play time or someone who is a good athlete but needs to shore up their academics. The extra year is a way to show Ivys and Elite colleges that you have improved your talent and are fully capable of thriving at college with smaller class discussion type learning called Socratic or Harkness style teaching.

Slowly gaining more attention are students who attend PG years at such schools to gain more intellectual vitality because their curriculum is often at the college level. Since such schools are feeder schools into the IVY League and other top colleges, you will gain access to a very exclusive network of college counselors who have direct lines to the admissions offices at these schools.

Typical boarding school seniors are often 1 to 2 years older than their public school contemporaries because of a deliberate strategy by their parents to hold them back during pre-school and kindergarten to ensure that they have higher chances of attending top schools when they are seniors. So your average PG student is around 19 sometimes even 20 by the time they graduate. The smartest kids at these schools are often younger but the kids from the wealthiest and most powerful families are typically older and run the social order on campus due to their clout and influence.

It is a mistake to think that Ivy League schools have a set formula of criteria that you can check off boxes and gain admission. More often than not it is who you know, not what you know that gets their attention. It's what you bring to the table that is impactful, unique, and special that they are seeking. Being intelligent is only 1 category of criteria that you must pass a threshold for.

The Ivy scorecard is often a rubric of criteria that has 100 dimensions to it and many of them have to do with your hooks and your relationship to the school passed through generational wealth or your athletic ability to play on their sports teams.

In Western Europe and Asia, college admission is merit-based. In the US, gaining access to the Top 25 colleges is more nuanced and complicated. This is why it's about 3-4 times easier to gain admission to Oxford or Cambridge than an Ivy League college even though the academics are probably superior at Oxbridge.

Good luck

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