Alternative Paths:
Applying to Universities Outside of the U.S. & Gap Year

Applying to Universities Outside of the U.S.

Most Deerfield students who choose to go to a university outside of the US are headed either to the United Kingdom or to Canada; however, the College Advising Office is able to support students’ college searches anywhere in the world.

Because each country has a distinct educational system, a college search outside the US requires particular attention to detail about required testing, deadlines and applications, as the process we use in the US isn’t always applicable outside of the US.

British Universities

While a few British Universities accept the Common Application (University of St. Andrews, University of Warwick, University of Glasgow, Durham University), most require students to apply using the Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) forms. The UCAS application is available online. It is important to review each individual university application form and deadline. While some schools in the British system (St. Andrews) use a “rolling admissions” process, we recommend students submit application materials as early as possible.

British Universities typically assess students based on their standardized testing. U.S. applicants should expect to submit the SAT or ACT and three or more AP exam scores depending on to which university and program they make an application.

Canadian Universities

Canada is home to some of the world’s more renowned universities, universities which enjoy the added benefit of having lower tuition costs than many colleges and universities in the United States. While these institutions may have limited or no financial aid for non-Canadian citizens, they are often still a more affordable option than colleges in the US.

Most Canadian universities require students to apply using their own school-specific application, available from each university’s website. Most Canadian universities are also quite clear about minimum standardized test scores and prerequisite coursework. Please note that meeting or exceeding those minimums does not guarantee admission, but this information is helpful in determining whether or not it would be appropriate for a student to submit an application for admission. For reference, the following are links to the admissions requirements for US high school students to some Canadian universities that have been popular with Deerfield students in the past.

Gap Year

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 this 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.

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”
  • 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.
  • 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 frequently asked questions here and additional FAQ 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.