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9 months ago
Admissions Advice
[edited]

Is it a good idea to take a semester off before college to organize your life?
Answered

I am a senior in high school. I am 17 years old. I have been struggling with the college application process for a while with little guidance, and I've concluded that I'm not nearly as prepared as I thought for college. I have been so overburdened with my classes (which include five APs, choir in the mornings, and honors theology) that I have barely taken any time for myself these past three and a half years. Despite the pressure my parents have put on me, I neither feel that I am ready nor do I truly want to start college next fall.

I wish to take time off, just a semester, to organize and build my list of achievements. I want to focus on my art and music more whilst maybe pursuing work opportunities. (I have never held a job, which my parents find embarrassing). I want to enter science and writing contests, and I want to work on my physical wellbeing, which I have neglected for too long. I want to participate in service projects and maybe even travel. I have dedicated too much energy thus far to my studies and have disregarded my extracurriculars.

There is no debating that I have weak people skills, or street smarts, and I understand the cons of taking a semester off before college. I have been told that it'll be harder to keep up since people will have already made friends with each other. Becoming part of friend groups will be harder, but I think It'll be hard for me either way to make friends in college, even if I start the semester with everyone else.

Another factor is my academic record. I do well in school. I have a great GPA, but I have an "okay" SAT score of 1380. It's not great, I know, especially considering the schools I would someday like to apply to.

Given all of this, the questions I have are the following:

1. Do you think that it would be helpful to take time off before starting college to work on things that I missed out on during high school? Does it sound like doing so would help me grow as a person before college? If not, if it is better for me to start college right away, and I know this is a bit too general, what do you think I should do to prepare for college?

2. My SAT score is not great, as I said. If you think it wouldn't be such a bad idea to take a semester off before college, should I work to improve it? I've taken it twice, and I had bad experiences both times. The first time, I was very sick. The second time, I was falling asleep, freezing, and I took it in the gym, so the timer used was the huge buzzer on the wall, which scared the life out of me every time a section ended. As you can tell, I can be very spineless at the most inconvenient of times.

I appreciate your response.

applications
college
extracurriculars
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2 answers

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Accepted Answer
9 months ago

I wouldn't see the problem to take a year off. I have friends who also took a year off to get their minds off of school and focus on other things that are important to them, such as work experience. Also, I wouldn't worry about the SAT score because colleges at this point designate them as optional. I do, however, encourage you to get ready for college by continuing to experience what you want to do in the future. Looks like you are into art and music, so you should be able to use your time wisely to pursue these interests as you prepare for college. Others will go to college right away because they can keep up with getting used to the workload experienced from high school, especially given from AP classes. But it's up to you. Each day of your life is worthy, so make the best out of it. Hopefully, everything I said makes sense.

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9 months ago[edited]

Hi! Thank you for asking your questions:) It seems you want to take time off to explore things that you haven't been able to in high school, for your mental health and to develop your passions. I'll start off by saying that these are all legitimate and perfectly OK reasons to take a gap between high school and college! If you don't feel ready to take the next steps to college, there is no rush. Many universities will allow you to defer a semester or even a full year. If you are academically burnt-out, then this may be the right thing for you. If not, oftentimes, high school students find some of their most developmental years to be the first few years of college where they are in a new environment and can meet people from all across the country or even the world. I know I did. You can follow your passions in coursework or explore new things in clubs and organizations around campus. Factors like these can really influence the schools that you decide to apply to. I would say a lot of things you want to pursue that you mentioned can potentially happen on a college campus. Maybe look for schools with these things that you are interested in. But ultimately, the decision to experience "newness" now, or in a semester or a year, is up to you. Taking a semester off does not sound like a bad idea to me, just be sure to reason out with your parents (if you feel comfortable) and yourself with what you will gain from a semester or year off that college may not provide to you.

Your standardized test score is not the only thing that will "make or break" your college admissions chances. That being said, for many selective schools a combination of GPA and standardized test scores allow for your application to be further reviewed if they meet certain thresholds. For more selective schools (top 40), I would make sure you have an average or above average SAT score and likewise for GPA. For other schools, a lower SAT score may be fine, if you have other parts of your application that can stand out (coursework, activities, awards, letter of recommendation, etc.)

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