Taking Long Gaps in College – What You Should Know and Do

Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by David Shaw

Taking Long Gaps in College What Should You Know and Do

Thinking about taking a break from college? We understand that students may want to take gaps for a variety of reasons, with some that are not within their control. However, many questions students often ask is that it possible to gap more than one semester or even multiple years?

Regardless of your college year, students are definitely permitted to take gap quarters. However, taking gaps while in college should be done with proper prior planning, because there are certain key factors you should also take into consideration before doing so.

Before you get too excited and carelessly take gap years without a plan, there are a few important steps to do and keep in mind to ensure a smooth transition process when taking breaks and resuming your college progress. Now before you too ahead of yourselves for taking gaps, take a second to plan how long of a gap you wish to take, and we’ll be here to help.

There Are Limits to Your Gap Duration in Your Academic Career


If you’re ever thinking about gapping up to 3 years from your dream school to pursue your ambition or passion, you might need to hold back that thought. University and colleges typically have limits on how many quarters or semesters you can take, and they vary differently based on their policies.

Some colleges allow students to take 2 gap quarters or semesters without questioning or requiring them to fill up some forms. Some institutions like Stanford University just explicitly state that students shouldn’t take gaps more than 8 academic terms. Check with your college as to how long of a gap or deferrals you can take within the academic year, consecutively, or conditionally in order to not jeopardize your enrollment status.

Note that for first-year students, taking gaps at your new institution may have special restrictions or policies that might apply. Check with your university for the most accurate detail. Additionally, an academic career in this context just refers to one specific university or college, you could certainly take full advantage of gap years from two different colleges in the future if you ever need to.

Universities and Colleges Are Generally Supportive of Taking Gaps

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Fortunately, universities tend to have a positive stance toward students looking into taking gaps by providing advising or counseling services through support groups or gap year societies to help students utilize their gap duration effectively. Universities are also especially accommodating to students who take gaps to serve in the military and will make sure to provide all human resources available to help them adjust and resume college throughout the stages of the transition.

The Harvard admissions team even revealed that “Each year, between 90 and 130 students defer their matriculation to Harvard College, and they report their experiences to be uniformly positive”

Simply taking time off to work on an interesting personal project, traveling the world to learn about an entirely different culture, or participating in impactful charity events are all good ways to shape you into a better person. And if any of these unique experiences transformed you into a more interesting and outstanding individual, your university will surely look forward to endorsing your accomplishments, as well as your return to impact, innovate and thrive under their wings.

What to Avoid While Taking Gap Years

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One big red flag to avoid doing in your gap year is definitely enrolling yourself in another degree problem at another college. Universities or colleges are generally never impressed with their students involved in dual-enrollment, especially under circumstances that you’ve agreed you’d be on a break from academia! To universities, doing such a thing would only sound like a grand betrayal, which can definitely jeopardize or risk your enrollment status!

Like most other choices in life, taking gaps have both good and bad values you should be wary of. Among the other things you should keep in mind or avoid while taking a gap year is:

Losing Your Enrollment Time Priority

Your university or college probably has enrollment priority systems in place for class registration times. Typically, the more earned units you have, the earlier your enrollment time to register for classes. It is crucial to ensure you don’t lose the enrollment priority if you take a certain duration of gap. You’ll often be at a huge disadvantage if you’re gonna lose this priority, so check with your college about this matter.

Lose Your In-State Residency Tuition Fee

Another expensive mistake to watch out for is your in-state residency status while taking long gaps! If your decision to the gap will strip away your in-state tuition privileges, then you better plan smart to avoid this costly mistake. To ensure this will not happen, check with the state laws and work with admission faculties that can help you with this. Unless, if you’re confident you’re not likely to favor the in-state tuition offer, then you should be fine.

Working On Too Many Projects

We typically advise against involving yourself with too many things during your gap period trying to find other interests. Instead, focus on a few projects, invest and allow an ample amount of time to let things produce results and help guide you on further decisions to try new things.

What could end up happening is that you either end up learning too much irrelevant knowledge or learning too little of everything, resulting in an ineffective wasted gap year for self-improvement. Don’t let your gap year experience lose interest in your studying because of your half-baked projects you just never get to see the results sprout into action.

Should You Really Take Some Time Off?

girl thinking about something

Consider yourself lucky if you can even contemplate taking gaps because not everyone has the luxury of doing so. I think it would be wise to take a break from studies to rediscover and challenge ourselves beyond our comfort zone and learn to crack under pressure independently. By breaking free from the narrow-minded systemic training from one’s previous years of the academic journey, it’s individuals like these who have full of inspiration, enthusiasm, motivation, and the most meaningful connections.

If you constantly still find yourself doubting the decision to take a gap, then you’re probably not ready to take do it now. But if you have a burning passion for projects you wish to pursue, and think it will be worth it to put your education on hold, by all means, go for it! After all, taking a gap year to do something you are really passionate about likely will teach you more meaningful and practical knowledge from years of college.

Be Wary of the Effects of Academic Detachment

One last tip for individuals planning to take a considerably long gap is to consider the effects of academic detachment. If you’ve gained a great deal of knowledge and skills on your own, you might get detached from the systematic ways and rules pertaining to the academic industry.

For instance, you wouldn’t expect an expert self-taught entrepreneur to attend classes, get graded assignments on case studies, and take exams that are subjectively graded, because intuitively for them, they’d rather get into action, and see real results and profits rather than get graded for hypothetical scenarios. That said, some things are just better learned from taking action, not studying from people’s documentation or experience.

However, I promise you if you utilize your gap diligently, you’re going to see college so differently in good ways. Challenges you faced in college previously will look insignificant to you, because you are just so much more open-minded and mature in managing challenges. Good luck to you all, and I wish you a great journey in your gap year doing really awesome things.

David Shaw

I enjoy blogging about the college experience, teaching people how to navigate and hack their way through college. I also enjoy promoting financial literacy among young individuals.

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