How do colleges view a gap year?Answered
Looking to take a gap year before going to college but I’m afraid it puts me at a disadvantage when applying to college later on. During this time, I plan on reflecting on my goals and doing some personal growth so I can figure out what to study in college. I’m seeing this more as a “time on” and definitely plan to give myself some structure. Does anyone know how a gap year is viewed by admissions? Are there any negative consequences to this decision?
Colleges will view gap years much the same way they'll view anything else in your application—they'll judge how you used the time that you made for yourself, how you grew during it, and what you might have learned or built in terms of skills that could help you in your area of study. To be honest, gap years are increasingly popular among students with the means to take them, and as long as there's a cohesive plan for that time (whether that be working, pursuing a hobby in a tangible way, traveling, interning, or some combination of those), colleges definitely won't view that time negatively. The important thing is to have something to show for your gap year for when you apply to college.
The other strategy though, is to apply for college normally as a senior (I'm not sure what year you are, so if you're currently a senior this isn't relevant, but if you're a junior or lower it would be), and then defer your admission for a year. Usually you can apply, decide on a school, commit to that school, and then ask them if you can start a year later because you'd like to pursue a gap year. They'll ask you for your plans, but typically most schools will support that wish by allowing you to push yourself back into the next admitted class. This is usually an easier strategy as well, because it doesn't require you to apply to colleges in the middle of your gap year when it's harder to coordinate with potential recommenders, teachers, and counselors.
I agree with @jcdenton, I don't think this will be be looked at negatively by colleges. However, like they mentioned, it really is going to depend on how much of a plan you have. If reflecting on your goals is just going to be you sitting around and deciding to be a doctor after 6 months that might not look so good. If you are actively taking steps to help improve your profile and are participating in ECs which help demonstrate you want to be a doctor, that's going to look a lot better.
Also, you should strongly consider the suggestion to apply to school now and then take a gap year after you are accepted. Logistically that will be a lot easier for you and I imagine filling our your application will be simpler since you won't have been out of school for a long time already. Something to consider!