Well, let’s start with what NOT to do. Do NOT burst into tears and burn your acceptance letter in protest. Do NOT interpret the January start date as an indication that you are not a worthy student or don’t deserve a place in the freshman class. Do NOT turn down your dream school because you will start a few months later than you had previously planned.
College applications are, unquestionably, on the rise. One need only to look at Boston University, which saw a staggering 20% increase in applications this year to know that colleges are becoming overwhelmed with submissions from talented and qualified students. Unfortunately, they simply don’t have enough spots available; so, more and more colleges are offering spring start dates. By staggering freshmen matriculation dates, they can balance incoming students with upperclassmen who depart mid-year for study abroad trips or those who graduate a semester early (or late).
So, pat yourself on the back for getting accepted to Dream U and think about how to take advantage of the opportunity before you. You have 3-4 months to recuperate from high school and to do something that will prepare you for the next phase in your life journey. Taking a gap between high school and university is a common practice among Europeans. According to The Leap, 2.5 million students in the UK plan to take a gap year and 88% of those who do believe the experienced helped them become employed.
Here are some ideas for how to spend your fall gap semester:
Travel: A semester abroad can range from informal backpacking to a structured program like those offered through Where There Be Dragons and Carpe Diem Education. Spending a few months travelling will surely help you to broaden your perspective as you are exposed to new cultures and experiences. And, it will give you a bunch of stories to tell at college parties in the spring!
Acquire a New Skill: Take this rare opportunity to throw yourself into pursuing a talent or learning a new skill. Become fluent in a language, train with a pottery studio, or immerse yourself in the subtleties of how to make the prefect tuna roll. Most of you will likely never have the chance to spend 3-4 months to focus completely on learning something new (until you retire) so do it now!
Place Out of General Requirements: Most colleges will give you credit or will allow you to place out of general requirements through an AP, SAT Subject Test or placement exam. So, spend your fall semester preparing to place out of college requirements. For instance, if you are planning to travel abroad, schedule the December SAT Subject Test in the language you will learn. Even if you don’t get the credit, exemptions will free up your schedule to take classes in subjects that interest you and may allow you to double (or triple) major.
Take Classes: Chances are, if you earned a spring admission, you may not have been the strongest applicant in the pool. So, take this time to prepare for the rigorous academics of your college. Freshmen frequently struggle in two subject areas: writing and math/calculus. Find out if your college will allow you to take classes through their extension school during the fall semester. If not, ask them for a list of classes and/or colleges from which they will accept a transfer credit.
Get a Job: Get a jump on paying for college while gaining experience by getting a job, preferably in a field that appeals to you. Doing this will help you will build your resume and make contacts that may prove advantageous when you are looking for summer or full-time employment after you graduate.
Get Healthy: Once you get to college, you will hit all-nighters, pizza parties and (don’t read this, mom and dad) keggers and beer pong. If you go into college with a healthy fitness and nutrition routine, you are more likely to stay healthy – physically, mentally and spiritually – and, thus, perform better academically and socially. If you don’t already have a healthy routine, get into one this fall!
Learn Life Skills: Do you know how to do your laundry? How about planning your budget and managing your credit card (you will be swarmed with offers of credit cards when you get to college)? If you have never travelled on your own through an airport or hailed (and paid) for a taxi, learn these essential life skills before you leave home – and risk not finding your way back!
Whatever you do this fall, be sure to take advantage of this time. Fielding Instagram photos and Snapchat updates from your high school classmates as they attend football games and fraternity parties may make the semester feel like forever; but, the time will pass quickly. So take advantage of this opportunity to reflect, explore and gain some experience. You’ll be happy you did.