Each year, a growing number of young people decide to take time away from the traditional academic path that takes students directly from high school to college.

For some students, this means applying to college during their senior year, selecting among their acceptances by saving their space with a deposit, and requesting deferral of their matriculation (which colleges are generally happy to grant as long as the request is made by late spring). For others this means applying to college during their time away after graduation.  The term “Gap Year” is commonly used to describe both experiences.

As Stanford’s Dean of Admissions, Richard Shaw, notes in a recent article, it’s important to know that time off generally does not improve chances of admission to any particular school, but is often a great way to explore interests. Shaw cautions, “Most of the gap years are designated after admissions . . . I don’t want students to take a year off before applying because they want to enhance their chances of getting in. If that’s the purpose of the year off, that’s unfortunate. Because I’d rather have them taking a year off because it’s something they truly in their heart feel they want to do.”

A gap year (which is typically a year but can be shorter or longer), is a great opportunity for students to reflect, explore, solidify, and deepen interests, work, volunteer, travel, or take on independent projects.

Why take a Gap Year?

By taking this time, students have the opportunity to take a break from the demands of their high school and college experiences, and reflect thoughtfully on their goals and aspirations. From the Middlebury website on gap years: “[A]s earning admission to a top college has more and more become an end in itself, and not just a means to an end, we can easily lose sight of the primary goal of our education: to discover what it is we truly care about and want to pursue further, and thereby come as close as possible to realizing our own potential.”

According to the Gap Year Association’s Research:

  • Gap year students overwhelmingly report being satisfied with their jobs which related to their approach to working with people and careers.
  • The highest three rated outcomes of gap years are:
    • Gaining a better sense of who I am and what is important to me
    • A better understanding of other countries, people, cultures, and ways of living
    • Additional skills and knowledge that contributed to my career or academic major
  • 90% of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year
  • 60% of gap year students said the experience either “set me on my current career path/academic major” or “confirmed my choice of career/academic major”

Examples of Recent Deerfield Students’ Gap Year Experiences

  • A member of the Class of 2021 spent the fall working on a local factory floor, before he purchased a one-way plane ticket to Europe, where he traveled with relatives and worked at a London youth hostel. In the spring, he wrote at a regional newspaper on Cape Cod — publishing dozens of articles on topics ranging from the natural world to regional politics to the arts — while interning remotely with a Massachusetts Congressional Representative. He finished up his year guiding white water rafting trips on the Deerfield River. 
  • A member of the Class of 2020 divided her gap year into 2 parts. She spent her fall semester in Hawaii studying culture and conservation, and her spring in London with an internship in Finance.
  • A member of the Class of 2018 spent his gap year working at a university as a special events intern for the summer, then traveling to Asia with an experiential learning and travel program in the fall, traveling through South America in the winter, and attending cooking school in Europe in the spring.
  • A member of the Class of 2017 spent the fall of her gap year taking classes in art, architecture, psychology and economics at Oxford’s Advanced Studies Program, and the winter and spring in Southeast Asia with an experiential learning and travel program.
  • A member of the Class of 2017 joined a junior hockey team for a year and went on to play hockey at the college level.
  • A member of the Class of 2017 spent her gap year in China, taking Mandarin classes, tutoring English, and working for an organization that helps advise high school students in Beijing on their college process.
  • A member of the Class of 2017 spent a summer working at a local coffee shop, and the fall at an internship at a school in her hometown. In the winter, she trekked to Everest Base Camp and volunteered in childcare and women’s empowerment in Nepal. She then spent three months in London interning for a start-up. She finished her year by traveling in Europe, Africa, and Russia.

Additional Information and Resources

  • Based in nearby Northampton, J2Guides offers comprehensive gap year planning services and has worked with many Deerfield families. You can schedule a free initial counseling session with J2Guides to further explore the gap year.
  • The Center for Interim Programs (CIP) offers answers to additional frequently asked questions here and here.
  • Talk to your college advisor! We can help you talk through whether a gap year is a good choice for you and help you begin the planning process.
  • Affordable Colleges Online offers free planning resources for international travel, volunteering, working, and taking courses.
  • The Gap Year Association is a clearing house of resources including gap year benefits and an initial list of accredited programs. 
  • Gap Year Fairs offer students and families the opportunity to meet representatives from various gap year programs.
  • Databases such as can be a good place to start if you’re hoping to work on a volunteer or for-pay basis during your gap year.

Frequently Asked Questions

For current students, talk to your faculty advisor.  For new students, ninth-graders should contact Mrs. Koyama, tenth-graders and juniors should contact Ms. Hemphill,  and seniors/PGs should contact the College Advising Office.

Students who want to play a sport in college at the Division I, IA, or II level, must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center by the end of their junior year. For more important information about NCAA academic requirements, please visit Athletic Recruiting.

Naviance is an online college search tool that helps students research potential colleges, keep track of their prospective and active applications, and estimate the likelihood of admission based on the results of previous Deerfield students’ grades and testing profiles as compared to each individual student’s personal academic record. All students are given access to Naviance in the fall of their junior year, and parents are given their own log-in information shortly afterwards.  Naviance is the site through which Deerfield submits the school’s portion of a student’s application materials (transcripts, letters of recommendation), so it’s important that students keep their application information up to date on Naviance.

There is no specific requirement for frequency of meetings, but most seniors meet with their advisor every two or three weeks to discuss their progress. Advisors may request more frequent meetings if a student is falling behind in the process, or around crucial times of the year (such as application deadlines).  Juniors will begin meeting with their advisor in late fall of junior year; they are encouraged to check in with their advisor about once a month.  Students can schedule meetings by visiting the College Advising Office on the second floor of the Boyden Library, emailing their college advisor, or using Outlook to request a meeting.

The College Advising Office sends a message to all sophomores each winter to invite them to schedule a meeting with a college advisor. In the summer before students’ junior year, the College Advising Office will send additional information about what students should be doing to prepare themselves for applying. In the late fall of their junior year, students begin the process in earnest, starting by filling out an information sheet that will help them, in conjunction with their college advisor, begin compiling a list of schools.

Deerfield is highly conscious of the needs of its student-athletes, and offers a wide range of NCAA eligible classes. The College Advising Office and Deerfield coaches are accustomed to assisting students seeking to play sports in college, and they are experienced in guiding students through the recruiting process. They will work with students to be sure they meet the NCAA requirements, and are in the best position possible to be recruited.

Contact College Advising
Fax 413-772-1128

Boyden Library, Second Floor
PO Box 87
Deerfield, MA 01342