• Gap Year for Homeschoolers

    Gap Year for Homeschoolers

     homeschool health Lee Binz, The HomeScholar

    How a Gap Year Can Prepare Homeschoolers for College

    Click to Learn How How to be Your Teen's Best College Coach!

Beating Homeschool Burnout - in a Nutshell

Not ready for college? Take a gap year and enjoy some time off between high school and college. In decades past, when teens resisted college, they might join the Peace Corps or run away to “find themselves.” Now, if college is the eventual goal, the time between high school and the start of college is often called a “gap year.” It may come as a surprise that taking a year off between high school graduation and college is viewed favorably by many colleges, and is frequently seen as a benefit. 

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year for homeschoolers (and non-homeschoolers) is taken after high school, and before college. The student enjoys taking an additional year to mature, while still considered an incoming college freshman. A gap year usually lasts between 6 months and a year.   They may travel, volunteer, develop personal growth, have valuable experiences that lead to true learning, guiding future career decisions. Teens can do amazing things before college, and it’s an option to consider.
The gap before college is intended for meaningful experiences, like community service, mission work, or work experience. During that time, the high school graduate takes a job or does some volunteer work to gain experience before beginning their college career.  The experience can be international or domestic, with an organization or guided program, or it can be an independent self-guided program. 

During a gap year, students take no college classes of any kind. That would prevent them from being seen as a freshman application, eliminating some scholarship possibilities. To acquire and retain scholarships, it’s best to clearly communicating gap year plans with the university during the application process. Then apply and get accepted by college first. Once scholarships are secured, defer enrollment, and follow any rules the university has for maintaining gap year status. Some colleges require written reports monthly, quarterly, or after the gap year has ended.
University Gap Year Policies Vary

University Gap Year Policies Vary

Gap year policies vary widely between colleges. Some colleges say if you take a gap year, you may be considered a transfer. Other universities will admit the student, award great scholarships, encourage a gap year, and still allow freshman status upon return.  In general, students will still be considered a freshman applicant unless they take a college course of any kind during their gap.  Some colleges defer enrollment, which means the student is accepted and then waits a year to actually attend.

Because policies vary so widely, the safest route is to contact three or four colleges that your child would MOST like to go attend, and ask them specifically for gap year information.  Their policies may change from year to year. Also, be careful to get assurance that the policy they quote you is "grandfathered" and will not change if your student leaves for a year!
Apply to College Senior Year

Apply to College Senior Year

General advice for all students considering a gap year: fill out the applications just like any other student.  Provide a transcript, reading lists, and course descriptions like others seeking admission.  Students who do not apply as a senior, could be considered a transfer student and miss out on many freshman scholarships. So have your student apply while they are still in high school.  In one of the application essays, they should focus on their gap year plans, what specifically they will do and what they hope to accomplish.

The college application essay is completely written by the student. Even so, you as the parent can help your student brainstorm facts to include in that essay. While your student completes the application and essay, you can call the colleges to research their policy. Make sure you visit each college, and have your student talk face to face with the admission department. That's as good as an "interview" and can go a long way to proving they really are taking a gap year and not just goofing off.  

Complete the FAFSA® Senior Year

Colleges base their financial aid on the FAFSA®, and (with luck) that financial aid decision will carry over once they return. You don't want your child to come back with a college admission but not be able to afford the college.

Gap year is usually not affected by "dual enrollment" college courses. Those are college level classes taken at community college or online while the teen is officially a high school student. When they have dual enrollment credits, you put the information from the community college course onto the high school transcript, to prove that it is "dual enrollment" and not just a college class. Only college classes taken after high school graduation will mess up your gap year and your freshman status. Your student can take anything before graduation but nothing after graduation (no college classes during the gap year.)
Planning Gap Year Experiences

Planning Gap Year Experiences

Gap year is more common in other countries.  Dorothy lives in the United Kingdom, and she says it’s quite common there.  "There are hundreds of organizations which offer gap year experiences, mostly abroad. Christian kids tend to do missions work with people like YWAM. Rich kids will sometimes just go traveling. Some will go working through another country. We have two different young friends in Queensland at the moment, one working in Brisbane to see the country, another with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) The way it works is you apply to university and once accepted you simply 'defer' the place for a year. Talking about what you plan to do on your Gap Year or putting it in your application gives very useful insight into your personality to the university. It's all automatic." There are many Gap Year options. 

  • Career exploration
  • Community Service
  • Cultural experiences
  • Internships 
  • Missionary work
  • Paid work
  • Personal development
  • Skill development
  • Travel abroad
  • Volunteer service
Organizations that provide Gap Year experiences are widely varied and represent many beliefs and missions. If you use an organization for gap year experiences, do careful and current research to check for the beliefs, integrity, safety, and the quality of the program. While an organization is not required for a gap year, some of the more popular choices are these: 

  • americorps.gov
  • gapyearassociation.org
  • gooverseas.com
  • peacecorps.gov
  • studyabroad101.com
  • teenlife.com
  • other national service programs
  • faith-based service organizations
Gap Year Benefits

Benefits of Taking a Gap Year for Homeschoolers

Taking a gap year can work out nicely for many types of students.  One student might still need a bit of seasoning or maturing before attending to the trials of university life.  Another may have a passionate interest in a subject and would like to acquire some real-world experience in it.   Both types of students need to be self-motivated, or the year might end up being a waste.  

A gap year can avoid problems with early graduation. Normal graduation age is 17-19 years old, so "early graduation" can mean different things to different people. The benefits of graduating early can be alluring: getting a head start on college or career, taking college courses when the student is academically eager and ready for them, less senioritis, and busy students can focus on college applications during that busy time of life.  In college, the benefits are graduating earlier than their age-mates, and entering the job force earlier. But the drawbacks of graduating early can be challenging. They may be overwhelmed by much older student who are either seeking a spouse or partying in college. 

A gap year may have negative consequences. Instead of employment or college, the gap year student may end up doing nothing productive, become a couch potato and experience failure to launch. The year may be viewed by colleges or employers as senioritis or a lost year, making them less desirable by colleges and jobs. 

Still, “students who take gap years are more successful in their university studies than mature aged students or students who enter university straight from high school,” according to a recent study. If you think it could fit your family, discuss gap year options with your student first.  Pursue it with the colleges if there is any interest.

Gap Year Experiences for Homeschool Parents

When you look back on your homeschool experiences, what stories will you tell?  Donna shares about her homeschool, explaining how her daughter chose a career and took a gap year.  She didn’t realize she should have applied in the fall of senior year, to secure scholarships. On the bright side, she says that her daughter did thank her for homeschooling her - as many children do, after they grow up.
Donna in Angola
Donna’s Gap Year Experience

"Back in September when I joined The Gold Care Club, we were heading to the states for 3 months to get our older daughter, settled into college. We had a wonderful 2 months with her and with family before we took her for the spring semester at a Christian University in Missouri, at a good school where she will be able to study nursing.

I feel like we are friends and you understand all this. The only thing I was disappointed about with her admissions process was that they didn’t offer her any scholarships. She had a 3.8 GPA and great SAT scores. I guess they give away all the scholarships in the Fall. She has filled out the applications for next fall and hopefully will get some of those.  

Even though, she didn’t start in the fall and receive any scholarships, the gap semester she took gave her a chance for the Lord to confirm to her which direction the Lord was leading. She stayed with us in Angola through the Summer months and into the Fall semester. It was such a God ordained decision as she received insight on her direction and studies. The Lord showed her that if she was going to go into medicine for mission work, she would be in school for the next 12 years and do nothing but eat, sleep and study. She loves life, is very sociable and loves to be active. She thrives on studying, but doesn’t want to only do that for 12 years. So, she felt redirected to study Nursing and get her Nurse Practitioner license. We are so grateful and she has even stated how influential that gap semester was for her. I would encourage students who aren’t sure what they want to study to get some real life, hands on experiences and seek God to know when they start what direction they are going. My daughter was at a mission hospital and traveled and experienced Angola on her own and what an impact it had on her. We are so grateful for God’s leading in her life and for the experiences she had that helped guide her calling and direction for her studies. 

I have to tell you this one last thing that was so sweet my daughter posted on Facebook. “I'm surprised at how little writing I have to do in college... I had way more in high school. Obviously, I had the best teacher ever! She prepared me better than any school could have. Love you mom! Sorry for all the grief I gave at the time!”  Boy, makes all those rough days worth it! Home Schooling isn’t for cowards with strong willed children! 

I am busy packing as we leave in a week back to the field. Our younger daughter feels God’s leading to missions in Asia. I have learned so much after seeing the demanding work load on her sister in college. I better understand what I need to do to prepare her for college in 3 years. I will be in contact more once we are back in Angola and we are home-schooling again. I am so looking forward to tapping in to the great resources you have and make sure she is well prepared. 

Thank you for all you offer and do. I have decided to not re-enroll my daughter into the homeschool umbrella any longer as I now feel confident that with your help and resources, I can do it on my own and make her transcript for her, thanks to you. The fees for the gold club membership will only cost a little bit more than what I was paying for enrollment fees. The school was hard to reach and didn’t offer many resources. I feel so supported being able to ask you questions each week. 

Donna in Angola"

Isn't that a great letter?  People don't believe me, but our children really DO say thank you!   And yes, it does seem like colleges offer many more scholarships in the fall.  That's why I'm always harping on people to start applying during first day of senior year. Thank you for the great letter, and sharing your wisdom with us, Donna! 
When you are done homeschooling, what will you say?  Will you be able to move forward, without regrets?  Listen to the bittersweet note from a homeschool mom.  She is done with her homeschooling career, but is looking back with joy and a feeling of accomplishment. 
Allyson in Canada
Allyson’s Gap Year Experience 

"Dear Lee, I had to write again to thank you, for all your help with our daughter's transcript. Thanks to you your wonderful advice, as well as talking me off a few cliffs. My daughter is enjoying her second year at university, and was awarded several scholarships, invited to join the freshman honor society, asked to be a part of the Honor's Program, limited to students with the highest GPA. This was all in her first year!! Thank you for encouraging our family throughout her high school education, particularly with our Gold Care Club membership. After one year in university, she is over 50% through her degree studies. She is a double major Music Education and Music Performance along with a minor in photography, is currently working on her Honor's Thesis and is in Student Leadership. We are proud parents and we are extremely grateful for all the help over those years. We have two more daughters who are nearing the end of their high school education and we are working on the Comprehensive Records for both of them. Your material has been so helpful! Your encouragement lightened the load as we continued on our homeschool journey. Thank you for your posts, your articles, The Gold Care Club, phone calls, Facebook posts, webinars, emails and sense of humor!

One of our daughters is finishing her Gap Year and the other is in grade 11. They, because of your guidance, are taking online university courses, preparing for a few CLEP exams... and teaching music lessons in their own studio -- all for high school credit. I am sad that our homes school days are drawing to an end. I want to run well and finish the course. It's been a wonderful adventure! Thank you for being a part of our homeschool adventure. Look how happy the Gold Care Club made Jonathan and I!  Blessings on you and your family as you continue to help home school families, like ours, homeschool to the best of our abilities. We will be forever grateful!


Years later, Allyson wrote again, with an update. 

" Lee, it’s been ages since we've spoken, but I have been thinking about our family's homeschool experiences and of course, you came to mind! We would never have changed our decision to homeschool our three daughters, we would, however, have signed up as a Gold Care Club Member, much sooner! This year, we will be attending another university graduation, as all three of our daughters are receiving their Master's Degrees. Their ages are 25, 23, and 21. They are all graduating in different disciplines, and are all working full time. 

The clear instructions you gave, were just what I needed prepare them for college/university admissions. Thank you! The days are long, the years are short, but the memories are priceless. Thank you for helping me be a better homeschool mum and for talking me down when I over-reacted to poor test results or was questioning my own ability to homeschool. You were right! Everything was fine. God has indeed, been very good to our family, and we are thankful! It's been so nice to see you on Facebook - and see how you're continuing to help homeschooling families! I know that they are as blessed by you, as our family has been. Have a great weekend! Blessings to you and your family."

Successful Gap Year Formula

Successful Gap Year Formula: Raise Adults, Then Let Go

I want to encourage you to remember your ultimate goal of raising successful adults. One day you will be letting go of your children too!  So, take it one step at a time, but remember that this is an important thing you are doing. I say GOOD JOB!!!  What you are doing is important, and I'm proud of you for all the hard work! 

Take a deep breath and be calm.  Remember that our goal is to raise adults who will go out into society and make the world a better place.  The rest of school is just for bonus points. 

If You Need Help Letting Go, Check Out the College Launch Solution!

Gap Year for Homeschoolers

Gap Year Infographic

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It is more complex than ever to prepare your homeschooler for college. Desperate parents are increasingly turning to professional college coaching that costs thousands. But is spending a fortune on a college admission coach necessary or just a result of fear?

Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, says you can be your teen's best coach to help them get into college! All you need is a little knowledge, encouragement, accountability, and investment. This book will give you all that and a lot more! You will learn strategies to propel your teen into college and career success!

Solution for Going from Homeschool to College

I believe YOU are your student's best homeschool guidance counselor and can become your student's best college admissions coach. The only thing that is missing is knowledge!

The College Launch Solution (CLS) will teach you how to be your child's best college coach. You won't have to scour the internet for information - the College Launch Solution will present it to you conveniently in one place. You won't have to wonder if you have done enough - the College Launch Solution will show you all you need to do and when it needs to be done.

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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies:  HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.
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