If my daughter takes a gap year next year, when should we start applying for colleges and scholarships/aid?Answered
My daughter is graduating this summer with the class of 2021 and will take a gap year next year. When should we start applying to colleges and scholarships/financial aid?
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There are two ways to take a gap year.
1.) You can apply to college now, get accepted, and request a deferred admission to take a gap year.
2.) You can take a gap year now and then apply to schools during your gap year.
If you choose 2.) then you can apply to safety school through rolling admissions like certain State Schools beginning in the middle of the summer, apply to an early decision or early action school by November 1st, 2021, and the rest of your colleges around January 1, 2022 (some colleges you can apply as late as the middle of February or March 1.)
Financial aid: If you apply now, you just have to submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) by June 30th, 2021. The CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile through college board) deadline varies by college and it's typically Jan 1 to March 31. If your gap year occurs after HS, then the FAFSA for 2022-2023 opens on October 1, 2021. And the CSS profile opens also on October 1, 2021.
Scholarships: Every scholarship opportunity has its own opening date and deadline date so there is no hard and fast rule. Some scholarships open over the summer, some in the fall. You need to research those independently and decide whether you are applying for a "need-based" one or a "merit-based" one or both. Some of the top scholarships like the Coca-Cola, Jack Kent Cooke, Gates are both. You need to meet an income limit and have a B+ GPA of 3.4 or 3.5 to qualify.
Caveat: If your daughter decides to enroll in community college and takes class full-time, she may be considered a transfer student when she applies to college which changes the acceptance rate and other factors. Therefore, check with the colleges she eventually wants to apply to in order to make sure both of you understand the application criteria.
Other Factors: Currently all the schools are TEST OPTIONAL. This may change for the next application cycle and only a few schools have announced a 2 or 3-year moratorium on this. So 99% of them haven't decided yet whether they will require the SAT or ACT next fall. I don't know if your daughter has any Test scores or not but both of you need to keep track of this on the newswires. If the SAT or ACT are required next fall, you want to study for those tests sooner than later because they take months of work to get some mastery. You can't cram in years' worth of SAT/ACT prep in 2-4 weeks and expect a good score. Also, you want to be able to take either test 2 to 3 times to get the highest possible Super-Score on them where they combine the highest parts of each individual section and they add up to a SuperScore. Most colleges will announce whether they will be test-optional say by April or May so if testing comes back, she needs to start grinding and take 2 to 3 tests say by the Oct. test dates at the latest if she is applying early anywhere and by Nov Test date if she is applying Regular decision.
Recommendations: If she applies a year from now, some of her teachers really won't be able to advocate for her as well as now. So you might want to think about having your daughter get generic non-college specific recommendations now so that when she applies next year, they can just cut and paste their recommendations into the College form. It's no fun to ask a teacher for a recommendation for you a year or two after you've taken their class and they don't really remember much about you.
Hope that is helpful and good luck to your daughter.
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