Top 35 Gap Year Colleges

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gap year colleges

Thinking about gap year programs after high school? What used to be considered a luxury – a whole year off to “find yourself” or “see the world”? – is becoming more and more common, especially as students begin to question whether college is really worth it for them. If you don’t want to jump straight into college, why not take a year to learn more about yourself and the rest of the world? You might even help make the world a better place during your time away from school. Taking a gap year during college doesn’t mean prolonging your education. Instead, when students participate in programs through colleges that allow deferment, they’re further adding to their educational experience.

Finding the Right Gap Year Deferment College Program

“Gap year” has a certain ring to it (if it sounds a bit British, it is – a modern take on the traditional “Continental Tour” wealthy young men used to take before settling down to adult responsibilities). But colleges have a lot of names for it: bridge programs, enrollment deferral, service year. As it becomes more common, the naming and process become most standardized, but for the most part, what you’re really asking for is an admission deferral – you want to be accepted to the college, but not actually start classes until a year later.

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Gap year programs after high school are becoming a popular alternative to going straight to college, especially in an age when going to college often means high debt and more stress than ever. A gap year gives young people the chance to mature, learn more about their career goals, and decide what path is right for them. Colleges lose when students aren’t prepared and drop out; students lose when they choose a college or major that isn’t the right fit. The gap year solves those problems; everybody wins, which is why officially organized gap year programs in the US are becoming more common and encouraged by the best colleges and universities.

Methodology: Ranking the Best Gap Year Programs Before College

To rank the top 35 Gap Year Friendly Colleges, Value Colleges considered several important factors. Three data points went into our ranking:

  • Graduation Rate (IPEDs data)
  • Cost
  • Return on Investment (College Scorecard data)

In the case of gap year-friendly colleges, the graduation rate is a critical addition; after all, what good are colleges that allow deferment if students don’t graduate? Cost and return on investment, in turn, help Value Colleges determine if a college is really going to provide students with value.

Students who want to prepare for college without a full gap year experience may consider a pre-college summer program.

Rank School Name Description

Princeton University

Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program is, essentially, a gap year for college students with the unique Princeton flavor. Students who are accepted to the Bridge Year Program spend 9 months before enrolling taking part in university-sponsored service at international locations in Bolivia, China, India, Indonesia, and Senegal. Students help with community-specific service projects, meeting needs while developing their own self-knowledge, intercultural awareness, and skills in reflection and planning.

Princeton University, of course, needs little introduction; one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution, and a member of the Ivy League, Princeton is New Jersey’s foremost university and one of the most influential research institutions in the world. A school like Princeton accepts only the most motivated and most promising students, so their gap year programs abroad are much more than time off to goof off; they’re a way that students show they are Princeton-ready and Princeton-worthy.

  • Acceptance Rate: 6%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Harvard University

As an Ivy League institution, Harvard University takes academic rigor, intellectual exploration, and well-rounded education very seriously. That’s why Harvard strongly encourages gap year programs abroad and domestic, and makes the process easier with its flexible admissions policies. The gap year can involve volunteer work, travel, or dedication to a special project. According to the college’s admission policy, a gap year is perfectly acceptable at Harvard University as long as students do not enroll at another college or university during this period.

Harvard University is one of the most recognized names among higher education institutions in the entire world. Founded in 1636, Harvard University was the first college founded in the New World and remains the standard of higher education. The prestigious university has educated eight sitting presidents and is home to the oldest and largest collection of books in the nation. Harvard University is the most selective of all gap year universities and does not give an advantage to early acceptance applicants.

  • Acceptance Rate: 5%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology is an elite research institution that accepts only the most promising and productive young minds, and that stance has made it one of the best gap year deferment college choices. Georgia Tech permits a gap year to first-year applicants who have been accepted by the college’s admissions department. The process for deferment requires students to pay the tuition deposit and speak directly to an admissions counselor. Only a single year deferment is permitted unless the student has military, government, or religious obligations to fulfill. No admittance to another college during the time period is permitted. If another college is attended during the gap year, the student must reapply as transfer student.

Georgia Institute of Technology began in 1885 to bring modern technology to the post-Civil War South, and today it is spread out over 400 acres in the heart of Atlanta. This public college is home to a large number of industrial and government research projects, and it widely recognized as one of the most innovative institutions in the world. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Georgia Institute of Technology as one of the Top 15 Best Colleges for Veterans and Top 35 National Universities.

  • Acceptance Rate: 23%
  • Deposit Amount: $250


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the best college choices in the Northeast for students who want a gap year for college. The admissions department at MIT encourages a gap year for both students who have been accepted to the university as well as prospective applicants. Students will apply for deferment status with MIT and give the reasons behind their postponement. MIT grants deferment in the majority of cases—as long as the student does not plan to continue his or her schooling at another institution during the gap year.

MIT is considered one of the most prestigious higher learning institutions in the country, and one of the most selective. Out of all applicants, the admissions department only accepts approximately eight percent. The college’s largest school is the School of Engineering with more than half of all enrolled students part of the program. MIT is a heavily funded research university with major grants provided through the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services. Looking for the best has made MIT a top gap year university.

  • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Yale University

When looking for gap year programs in the U.S., Yale University is bound to come up on any short list. Yale University encourages a gap year during college before students enroll as a way to gain meaningful life experiences. Past students who took part in the gap year program were surveyed and found the time off rewarding and highly valuable. Yale University reviews each deferment request individually before granting the time off prior to matriculation.

Yale University is located in an urban setting on a campus that measures just over 340 acres. The college was founded in 1701 as the second Colonial College, and has carried on a rivalry against Harvard University (the first Colonial College) for over three centuries. Yale University has one of the best School of Medicine departments in the nation and also has a reputation for being home to a thriving music and arts department. One of the best gap year programs before college only adds to the prestige.

  • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

For students searching for gap year programs abroad, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a superior choice. Not only does the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill permit deferment; UNC has a Global Gap Year Fellowship. The fellowship is opened exclusively to students who apply for Early Action and are admitted to the college. A total of 7 recipients are selected for one of the best gap year programs before college. Gap years can be designated by the student or take place at one of the affiliated universities in Malawi or Kibera.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, known to students (and basketball fans) as UNC, is not only ranked as one of the best public universities in the nation, but also has one of the best college programs for veterans. More than 20 percent of the student body is part of the college’s Greek life with many events taking place in Chapel Hill – a city considered by many to be the best college town in the nation. Standout projects at UNC include research work sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and a massive digital archive of North Carolina’s history. Students looking for a gap year university outside of the elite Ivies can look to UNC, one of the original Public Ivies.

  • Acceptance Rate: 24%
  • Deposit Amount: $250

College of William & Mary

One of the best gap year deferment college programs, the College of William & Mary’s gap year is granted by letter request through the university’s Associate Dean of Admissions. Each gap year acceptance is decided on a case-by-case basis and is approved as long as the request indicates the year will help the student achieve personal growth. Students who are granted Early Decision acceptance or have been granted admission through the college’s waitlist are not eligible for the deferment program from the College of William & Mary.

The College of William & Mary is a highly selective college located in the Southeast United States. The suburban campus is set upon a sprawling 1,200-acre campus. William & Mary has more than 40 undergraduate programs and more than 40 graduate and professional degree programs. All incoming freshman are required to live on campus with many upperclassman remaining on campus as well. Known for its high level of student support, William & Mary provides students with counseling to accommodate the transition from the gap year into the first year of college. Touches like that make for one of the best gap year supportive schools around.

  • Acceptance Rate: 36%
  • Deposit Amount: $150

Harvey Mudd College, Claremont

Harvey Mudd College’s gap year programs after high school permits deferment for a student to have a gap year in the majority of requested cases. Deferment must be requested when a student sends in his or her Enrollment Response Form. Harvey Mudd College encourages students to spend their gap year abroad or seeking other enrichment opportunities, in keeping with its status as a top-ranked liberal arts college. The only condition is that the gap year student must not matriculate to another college or university during this period.

Harvey Mudd College is a very small private college located near downtown Los Angeles, part of the elite Claremont Colleges consortium. The 33-acre campus holds classes for a student body made up of less than 900 undergraduates, but students have access to all of the Claremont programs. The college offers a liberal arts curriculum with programs in humanities, social sciences, and engineering. The college is best known for its exceptional clinical partnership programs that allows students to work on projects with national laboratories and corporations, in addition to being a top gap year university.

  • Acceptance Rate: 15%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

Middlebury College

Middlebury College offers up the perfect gap year for college option for prospective students. Middlebury College endorses a gap year as a way for students to take some time off between high school and college. This time away is intended to help a student to reassess his or her educational future. Middlebury College puts very few restrictions on deferment options with students able to notify the college as late as June 1st of their plans to take a gap year. In addition to taking a full year off from college, Middlebury College offers February admission start dates for incoming freshman.

Middlebury College is located in a rural area of Vermont with a campus totaling 350 acres. Known as one of the most supportive and exceptional liberal arts colleges in the nation, Middlebury’s reputation is built on exploration. The college has a number of enrichment programs for students, including a Study Abroad option for juniors with about 50 percent of the student body taking part in the program. The college has been ranked as the 5th best National Liberal Arts Colleges, making it one of the best choices for a gap year during college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 17%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

Beloit College

Beloit University allows a college gap year on a case-by-case basis that must be decided annually. During the gap year, the college permits students to take part in fellowship training programs, rehabilitation programs, be on full-time active duty, or be a full-time volunteer for a charity organization. Financial aid packages are awarded annually and gap year students will need to reapply for aid before matriculation.

Beloit University, founded in 1846, is the oldest college in all of Wisconsin. The 40-acre campus is styled after Ivy League colleges located in the Northeast, part of the college’s original mission to bring the highest level of education to the frontier. The college has a rigorous academic program with a strong push toward graduate-level degrees. Beloit College has one of the highest numbers of students in the country who go on to earn their PhDs. Teaching and counselor degrees are highly regarded from Beloit University, one of the best colleges that allow deferment.

  • Acceptance Rate: 54%
  • Deposit Amount: $350

Florida State University

Not many gap year programs in the US offer financial assistance during a student’s year off from academic studies. However, Florida State University’s college gap year is the exception to that rule. Florida State University students can apply for one of the Gap Year Fellow awards. Recipients get up to $5,000 from the college to support them during their time off from college. Florida State University students interested in a gap year are asked to fill out a short application. The application requests a bridge year proposal, learning objectives defined, and educational goals for the year.

Florida State University is a public college with a thriving campus made up of over 33,000 undergraduate students, one of Florida’s two preeminent universities. Due to its large size, the college has more than 600 student organizations and 18 NCAA Division I sports teams. The college has won numerous titles for sports over the year and has had students receive prestigious academic awards, including Rhodes scholarships. That perfect combination of campus life and academics makes FSU one of the best for a gap year during college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Emory University

One of the esteemed Southern Ivies, Emory University is an ideal gap year deferment college, which allows for deferment as long as a student has a detailed plan on how he or she plans to spend the time off productively. To apply, Emory University prospective students will have to follow all guidelines dictated by the college in regards to coursework requirements. The guideline states that students mustn’t take more than two for-credit courses during the gap year.

Emory University is a mid-sized college in suburban Atlanta, GA, dating back to a Methodist college founded in 1836. One of the most prestigious institutions in the South, Emory is also dedicated to community; the college requires both first-year and second-year undergraduate students to live on campus. Volunteer Emory is a very popular charity organization, which helps students find local community service partnerships. That dedication to service makes Emory a top-ranked gap year university.

  • Acceptance Rate: 22%
  • Deposit Amount: $550

James Madison University

James Madison University’s gap year programs after high school give freshmen the chance to serve and learn at home and abroad. Any student who is accepted and wishes to take a year off before matriculating must write a request letter to the Dean of Admissions. Within the letter, the student must outline a plan on how he or she proposes to spend the gap year along with an agreement not to enroll at another college during that timeframe. The admission deposit is still required and will be applied toward enrollment the following fall semester.

James Madison University is conveniently located on a suburban campus just a short drive away from Washington D.C.; that proximity has helped make JMU one of the best colleges for students interested in government and business. James Madison University prides itself on offering an extensive number of programs of study. Students have more than 70 majors to choose from upon enrollment. Many students choose to take advantage of the college’s study abroad programs and visit universities located in Belgium, London, Florence, Beijing, among others, making it one of the best for gap year programs abroad as well.

  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Deposit Amount: $250

Duke University

Duke University has an official Duke Gap Year Program to aid students who desire to take a gap year for college. Duke emphasizes that there are very few times in life where individuals can take a year off for personal growth. The Duke Gap Year Program provides from $5,000 to $15,000 toward the cost of a recipient’s gap year program abroad or in the US. Gap year programs can be selected from Duke’s recommended list or student created. Students through regular and early decision acceptance can apply to the gap year program.

Each year, Duke University is ranked as one of the top 10 colleges in the United States. As one of the most elite institutions in the South, Duke is as legendary for its academic rigor and wide web of government and industry connections as it is for its nationally dominant basketball team. The college also has 40 fraternities and sororities on campus with 30 percent of students a part of Greek life. With one of the best gap year programs before college, Duke shows why it’s a dream college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 10%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University’s special college gap year program is offered for a very small, very motivated percentage of students; typically, Wesleyan allows only 20 to 25 students per class to defer enrollment. A letter in writing must be sent prior to June 1st with a student’s plan for deferment. Students are not allowed to apply to another college during their gap year. By March 1st of the gap year, a student must write another letter about their deferment activities thus far and state intent to enroll in the fall.

Wesleyan University was founded in the early 19th century and has the distinction of being one of the nation’s first coeducational institutions. The old college spirit is alive and well at Wesleyan University, which has a reputation for not only having a large number of fraternities and sororities, but also being home to “secret” student societies. The college has partnerships with 50 worldwide universities in order to offer a vast number of study abroad programs to students, helping to make it one of the best institutions for gap year programs abroad.

  • Acceptance Rate: 16%
  • Deposit Amount: $250

Tufts University

Students can apply to Tufts University’s unique Bridge-Year Service Learning Program named Tufts 1+4, one of the best-designed gap year programs in the US. During the gap year, students spend a full year dedicating their time to community service projects. The projects can be located in the United States or students may spend the gap year abroad in countries such as Brazil, India, or Ecuador. Students applying to Tufts as well as currently accepted students can submit an application for Tufts 1+4.

Tufts University is located minutes away from the downtown section of Boston, standing as a centerpiece to the University City since the 1850s. Once a small liberal arts college, Tufts University has grown into an elite research university and one of the more expensive private colleges in the Northeast, but the university does offer generous needs-based financial aid packages. Liberal arts majors are the most popular choice at the university, but the college currently offers more than 90 undergraduate majors to choose from. Among colleges that allow deferment for a gap year, few do it better than Tufts.

  • Acceptance Rate: 15%
  • Deposit Amount: $600

University of Oregon

The Pacific Northwest spirit of exploration is just one reason the University of Oregon assists students with having a successful college gap year experience. The University of Oregon gap year program honors admission for up to one year if a student chooses to defer. To apply, students must describe his or her gap year plan and what could be gained from the experience. Students who earn college credits during a gap year lose deferment status and must reapply to the University of Oregon as a transfer student.

The University of Oregon, the state’s flagship research institution, is large public university with an undergraduate enrollment close to 20,000. The college is home to more than 30 research institutions with centers dedicated to the study of languages, the study of women in society, among others. Most students live off-campus with only 20 percent of students living in residential housing. As a top gap year university, UO makes sure students get the most out of their experience.

  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Deposit Amount: $200

Colorado College

A top gap year deferment college, Colorado College has a dedicated gap year program that typically defers enrollment for up to 100 students annually. The fall gap year program accepts approximately 50 to 60 students while the winter program allows a maximum of 40 students. The gap year for Colorado College students can last between one semester to one year. For consideration, a proposal must be submitted with a timeline of the student’s bridge year plans.

Colorado College follows a different type of scheduling plan than most universities. The college focuses on having small class sizes and using block scheduling to complete coursework. Since the college is located in the Colorado Springs area, a number of student activities involve outdoor recreation at areas like Pikes Peak. With one of the best gap year programs before college, Colorado College shows how modern higher education should be.

  • Acceptance Rate: 15%
  • Deposit Amount: $250

College of the Holy Cross

Catholic students interested in gap year programs after high school can look to the College of the Holy Cross’ admission deferment plan. Students who are first-year applicants can apply to the College of the Holy Cross for early or regular decision. In their application, they must include either the Coalition Application, the Application for Access, Affordability and Success, or the Common Application. While it’s not a requirement, the recommendation is for students to participate in a personal interview, submit SAT scores, and send any supplementary materials that will showcase their achievements or unique talents to increase their chances – the college gap year program is competitive.

The College of the Holy Cross began in 1843 as a private institution, and remains a small, highly prestigious Catholic school in the intellectually rigorous Jesuit tradition. According to U.S. News and World Report, the college currently ranks among the top in High School Counselor Rankings and among National Liberal Arts Colleges. Their motto is, “In Hoc Signo Vinces,” which is Latin for, “In This Sign You Shall Conquer.” The college embraces core values which include integrity, teamwork, innovation, commitment, and stewardship, all qualities invoked by one of the best gap year programs before college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 40%
  • Deposit Amount: $500

Macalester College

When students are considering college gap year programs abroad or here, Macalester College’s gap year program could provide them with the solution. The college grants deferrals for a myriad of reasons including allowing them to study overseas, though students cannot earn more than 20 credit hours at another institution. Every year, around twenty to thirty first-year students choose to defer their enrollment and take a gap year. When students select a gap year deferment college such as this one, they can receive the financial aid they need, and they have easy access to community engagement, internships, and research.

Macalester College was founded in 1874 by a Presbyterian missionary to the frontier, and named for the philanthropist who donated the first campus. U.S News & World Report ranks Macalester one of the Best Undergraduate Teaching colleges in the US, known for its ample student support (as with its gap year during college). Their mission is to remain committed to maintaining a high level of educational standards as a liberal arts college, remaining one of the best colleges that allow deferment for a gap year.

  • Acceptance Rate: 41%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

University of Denver

Students who are planning a gap year for college at the University of Denver can go to the Defer Enrollment program to discuss their plans for the next year. In doing so, students are confirming that they’re not completing coursework or participating in another degree-granting program through another institution. To be considered for deferment, students must complete this paperwork and submit a deposit; around 30 students defer each year. The success of students returning with a year of personal growth encourages the university to continue developing their college gap year program.

The University of Denver brought higher education to the Rockies in 1864, and with just over 5000 students, UD continues to uphold the highest standards of academic excellence. With their extensive opportunities, the University of Denver regularly ranks among the best undergraduate colleges, with core values including community, learning, and scholarship. Their dedication to growth and exploration have make them one of the best gap year programs before college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 58%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

Wheaton College

The college gap year program at Wheaton College – called the Vanguard Gap Year – offers allows students to participate in a hands-on educational experience, building leadership skills for college and the years beyond. There’s typically an enrollment fee needed as a deposit. The program takes place at HoneyRock, which is Wheaton’s Outdoor Center for Leadership Development. Those participating in this gap year program are encouraged to become courageous, humble servant-leaders.

One of the most prestigious Christian colleges in the US, Wheaton College dates back to 1834, when it began as a progressive, abolitionist institution. Wheaton remains committed to service and justice, with the motto, “Christo et Regno Ejus”: “For Christ and His Kingdom.” The college embraces core values including having a distinctive community, high standards, and innovative spirit, all of which are emphasized in the Vanguard Gap Year, one of the nation’s best gap year programs before college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 48%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

St. Edward's University

Saint Edward’s University’s gap year programs after high school are an excellent choice for motivated students, either deferring their application or applying afterward. According to the university, Saint Edward’s will hold an accepted student’s spot with a deposit, while the admissions department favors new applicants who have taken a gap year already. Either way, Saint Edward’s likes students who are curious and compassionate.

Founded as a Holy Cross Catholic college in 1885, Saint Edwards University is Austin, Texas’ most prestigious private institution, regularly ranked one of the top undergraduate educators in the nation. With the motto “Take on Your World,” Saint Edwards want each student to explore personal transformation through experience, achievement, understanding, and knowledge. It’s their mission to get to know students not as a number, but instead as individuals, and those values make Saint Edwards an ideal gap year university.

  • Acceptance Rate: 84%
  • Deposit Amount: $150

Portland State University

Portland State University’s partnership with Carpe Diem Education programs make PSU one of the best possible choices for a gap year for college. Students can request deferment for a myriad of reasons including travel, volunteering, and work. Students participating in the Carpe Diem program even earn PSU credit (decisions are made on an individual basis, however). There are no specific activities that will approve students who wish to participate in a gap year. However, the hope is that the student will be experiencing personal growth, so it will help their future college endeavors.

Portland State University is a fairly young institution, founded as a public college in 1946, but it’s grown into one of the biggest and most respected in the Pacific Northwest. With their location, it’s no surprise that U.S. News ranks Portland State one of the most innovative schools in the nation; whether in tech or the humanities, graduates feed right into the creative hub of Portland. The university’s values include promoting access, equity, and inclusion; committing to curiosity, collaboration, sustainability, and stewardship; and respect for all. These are precisely the values instilled in the gap year during college at Portland State.

  • Acceptance Rate: 92%
  • Deposit Amount: $200

American University

American University’s unique Gap Experience program is one of the best and best-developed gap year programs in the US, giving students not only a year off, but an experiential internship. Students enrolling in this program will intern three days weekly at a Washington, D.C. organization and will enroll in 7 college credits. These courses are comprised of internship and seminar at the university. With the Gap Experience, American University students make the most of their gap year, earning credit and making connections for future career opportunity.

American University is a private research institution founded in 1893 in Washington, DC, with the express mission of training students for civic engagement and civil service careers. With that legacy, American University is ranked as one of the best colleges for veterans according to U.S. News & World Report; their motto, “For God and country,” says it all. AU’s central values, such as responsibility and innovation, are at the center of the Gap Experience, making it one of the best gap year programs before college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 29%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Berry College

Berry College’s Year of Service is a special college gap year plan that has been recognized as one of the best gap year programs in the US. Rather than going abroad or staying at home, students in the Year of Service will live in themed housing at Berry. In doing so, they’ll be able to establish a direct link between where they’re living and the Rome and Floyd community. Those participating in this program engage in the societal challenges the community faces, following the college’s mission of service. While this is not a gap year for college credit or a gap year during college, this program helps students create enriching experiences while in the Berry community.

Berry College, a private liberal arts college established in 1902, is one of the most unique, service-oriented colleges in the South. Following the vision of its founder, who provided free education for the young people of the mountain community, Berry is committed to work study and service. Berry currently ranks at #5 in Best Value Schools and at a tie for #11 for Most Innovative Schools according to U.S. News and World Report. As their motto says, “Not to be Ministered Unto, but to Minister,” and Berry’s Year of Service is a prime example of what a gap year during college can accomplish.

  • Acceptance Rate: 62%
  • Deposit Amount: $250

Augsburg University

Staking out its claim as a top gap year deferment college, Augsburg University doesn’t just encourage students to take a gap year; they make sure students have all the resources they need to succeed during and after their deferment. As part of its commitment to hands-on, experiential learning, Augsburg gives rising freshman the opportunity to take on a bridge or transition program, as well as providing counseling and advising to students on a gap year deferral. While many colleges just leave students to their own devices, Augsburg is at their side, even in gap year programs abroad.

Augsburg University dates back to 1869, and it is regularly recognized as one of the best regional colleges in the Midwest. With a mission centered around the motto “Education for Service,” Augsburg is ranked by U.S. News as one of the best undergraduate colleges and one of the best values in the US. It’s the university’s mission to educate students to become critical thinkers, thoughtful stewards, responsible leaders, and informed citizens, and that’s the mission that drives one of the best gap year programs before college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 65%
  • Deposit Amount: $150

Cornell College

Cornell College offers one of the most flexible gap year programs in the US. For whatever reason – whether they’re tired of the academic grind, want to dig deeper into career interests, or travel abroad – Cornell will hold an accepted student’s place with just a deposit. Therefore, it’s critical for students to pay attention to academic deadlines, paperwork requirements, and admissions guidelines for when their gap year is complete.

Cornell College started in 1853 and currently has an undergraduate enrollment of just 1000 students. Named for benefactor (and cousin of the more famous Ezra Cornell) William Wesley Cornell, Cornell College was a pioneer in coeducation, and they continue to uphold civic responsibility, intellectual growth, and discovery as their primary values. Among colleges that allow deferment for a gap year, Cornell College is recognized for their encouragement and understanding.

  • Acceptance Rate: 65%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

Lewis & Clark College

Since it’s named for the famed explorers, it’s only fitting that Lewis & Clark College would be one of the best gap year deferment colleges in the US. The college understands students want to pursue goals including assisting family members, conducting research, engaging in specialized training, having travel experiences, volunteering within their communities, and working. Short-term experiences supported by the college could include participating in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Fulbright, The JET Program, and Teach America.

Lewis & Clark College dates back to a Presbyterian academy founded in 1858, when the region around Portland, OR was still frontier and educational opportunities for the children of settlers was lacking. According to U.S. News and World Report, Lewis & Clark today ranks solidly among the best regional colleges in the West, building a solid reputation as a liberal arts college around its value of opportunity, success, and collaboration. Their mission is to help prepare students to become lifelong learners who are successful leaders and engaged citizens, and supporting a gap year during college helps make that possible.

  • Acceptance Rate: 71%
  • Deposit Amount: $1,000

Texas Christian University

Choosing a gap year for college doesn’t always come easy, but Texas Christian University supports gap year students through every step of the process. Students must ensure their deposit is submitted before the enrollment deadline to receive approval. It’s critical that students follow the steps for the deferred decision and meet all the requirements. One of the benefits of the program is that, if students are scholarship holders, they won’t lose eligibility. According to the college’s admission policy, a gap year is perfectly acceptable at TCU as long as students do not enroll at another college or university during this period.

Texas Christian University was founded in 1873 as an institution that embraced faith, reason and inclusivity, and was one of the first colleges to admit women and people of color. Today, TCU is recognized as one of the most esteemed Christian universities in the nation and is known for preparing students for graduate school and professional careers. As part of their mission of becoming a responsible citizen in the global community, TCU has become a top gap year university as well, encouraging the kind of exploration and personal spiritual growth that makes for mature leadership.

  • Acceptance Rate: 41%
  • Deposit Amount: $900

University of Hartford

The University of Hartford allows applicants to defer acceptance and take a gap year (or semester) with written request and an enrollment deposit. The University will kindly waive the re-application process, and if students pay a deposit, any merit-based awards are also held. Alternately, Hartford offers a unique Summer Bridge program available for incoming students. Offered at Hartord’s Hillyer College, the Summer Bridge Program houses students for a one-week residential experience. Not only is this program entirely free for students but it also offers students the opportunity to spend time on campus. In doing so, it provides them the ability to get a feel for what it’s like before attending.

The University of Hartford properly began in 1957 with the merger of three Hartford-area colleges, but the oldest of these – the Hartford Art School – dates back to 1877 (founders included Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Clemons). Their motto, “Ad humanitatem” (“To Humanity”) represents the higher calling that has driven the work and learning at Hartford for nearly a century and a half. The university’s values of curiosity and integrity are visible in its support for students’ gap year plans.

  • Acceptance Rate: 81%
  • Deposit Amount: $500

Long Island University Global

Gap year students might view Long Island University Global’s college gap year program as a dream come true – more than just a gap year, the Global program is practically a gap year degree. Students who enroll will participate in their Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies. In doing so, they’ll participate in the world’s only accredited four-year program where students earn their bachelor’s traveling through eight countries during eight semesters. Instead of students taking a college gap year, they’ll participate in this immersion program and earn full credit.

Long Island University Global is one of the most unique institutions, not just in New York City, but in the world. LIU Global was founded in 1954 as a Quaker-related, international seminary, but financial struggles led to a partnership with Long Island University, resulting in LIU Global. The university’s mission is to develop lifelong learners by transforming and empowering lives. LIU Global continues its values of advancing social justice, improving health, and fostering cultural diversity, all of which is supported by the gap year universities of all gap year universities.

  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Warren Wilson College

Warren Wilson College, the first Official Gap Year Association College, earns a reputation for one of the best gap year programs in the US. Warren Wilson provides exceptional support for gap year students, including themed housing for students returning from a gap year. As Warren Wilson reports, as much as 10% of students begin their freshman year returning from a gap year experience – one of the highest rates in the nation.

Warren Wilson College began in 1894 as a private Presbyterian institution, and remains one of the few work colleges still in operation. Just as the original students, all students at Warren Wilson must work an on-campus job and participate in community service in addition to their studies. It’s a particularly ripe environment for gap year students, offering many study abroad and community service learning opportunities throughout the 4 years of a bachelor’s program. With an emphasis on social justice, environmental responsibility, and diversity, Warren Wilson is a perfect gap year college.

  • Acceptance Rate: 79%
  • Deposit Amount: $300

Prescott College

Prescott College’s gap year for college program gives students the opportunity to notify the school either verbally or in writing of their intention – a much simpler system than most gap year deferment college programs. It’s possible for students to defer for up to one year without the need for reapplying, and Prescott likes seeing gap year plans included in their admissions essays. It’s all part of Prescott’s commitment to exploration and innovation, a mission that extends throughout all programs.

Prescott College began in 1966 as a center for alternative and experimental education, growing out of a Ford Foundation conference on educational innovation. According to U.S. News and World Report, Prescott ranks as one of the best Regional Universities West. The university’s motto is, “For the Liberal Arts, the Environment, and Social Justice.” They embrace core values that center around their mission including exploring new educational paradigms, critical thinking, and diversity, all of which are critical to their college gap year program.

  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

Naropa University

Naropa University is the center of the LeapYear program, one of the most successful gap year programs in the US. Applicants between the age of seventeen and twenty-three have a unique opportunity to receive a full year of college credit. Through participation in this contemplative education program, students will have exposure to undergraduate and graduate level liberal arts curriculum. The program also includes the integration of a three-month internship, three months of travel and service in gap year programs abroad, and US-based retreats.

Naropa University is, uniquely, the first Buddhist college in America to earn regional accreditation. Founded in 1974, Naropa is noted for its curriculum rooted in Buddhist teachings, including meditation and an overarching respect for all life and faith. The university is founded on contemplative education, and its mission at the core inspires a community to live with respect and awareness for themselves and the world around them. One of the best gap year programs before college is a central part of that mission.

  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Deposit Amount: N/A

What Constitute Good Reasons to Defer Admission for a Gap Year?

There are plenty of good reasons to defer admission. For example, you may submit a gap year university application because you want to take a year to grow and expand your worldview. You may want to gain some maturity to prepare yourself for university life. For some, a gap year provides a great opportunity to figure out what college they want to attend and gain perspective on what career path they want to take.

Most colleges that offer a gap year university application give their guidelines, but good reasons to defer admission usually include:

  • Service trip abroad
  • Volunteer work with a nonprofit, charity, etc
  • Academic research project
  • Personal/family obligations (such as caring for a sick parent)

Ultimately, the college or university you apply to will decide whether your plan fits their criteria for a deferment. You may also research whether the college publishes gap year personal statement examples; many will offer specific examples of what they’re expecting.

The bottom line is that only you can determine whether or not a gap year is right for you. If you’re considering a gap year but aren’t sure about it, you can always talk to your counselor.

How Important is My Letter to Defer Admission?

Some colleges require a written request for admission deferral, usually along with your application. For most applicants, that will mean a letter to defer admission along with a conventional application essay – twice the writing. If your college has this requirement, it’s very important to send your letter to defer admission and send it on time.

This part of the process makes some students nervous; some gap year personal statement examples would probably ease their minds. Thankfully, if you need an admission deferral letter sample, you’ll find some great ones. Run a search for an admission deferral letter sample, and you’ll find some examples of things you should and should not write in your letters. The best gap year personal statement examples will stay brief and to the point.

The Gap Year Association has an excellent defer admission letter sample, but if you want to see more gap year personal statement examples, there is a wide variety of sources.

Is it Better to Apply to College After a Gap Year, or Request a Deferral?

This part can get confusing. A lot of gap year students wonder if they’ll have to reapply to previously accepted college programs, and whether deferred college acceptance really means they’re accepted or not.

Here’s the scoop, generally: in most cases, deferred college acceptance is the same as any other acceptance. As long as you pay your deposit, your spot is secured; you’re just starting a year later. Most of the time, you will not have to reapply to previously accepted colleges if you only wait a year.

On the other hand, if you want to take a gap year to figure out where (or whether) you want to go to college, then you obviously can’t get deferred college acceptance. Applying to college after gap year experiences would be your best option.

However, if you already know where you want to go to college, you might as well secure your spot. You won’t have to reapply to previously accepted college institutions. Plus, this way, you’ll know that your place in college will be waiting for you when you get back. You won’t have to worry about applying to college after a gap year.

Are Any of the Colleges with No Out of State Tuition Also a Good Option for a Gap Year?

Colleges without out of state tuition can be a smart choice for a gap year. These institutions often prioritize offering affordable education, making them appealing for students looking to take a break before entering a traditional four-year college. By attending a college without out of state tuition, individuals can save money and still gain valuable experiences and knowledge during their gap year.

Are Gap Year Programs Expensive?

Are gap years expensive? Depends. If you’re taking a gap year to volunteer or do a service trip abroad, then you’re probably going to be on the hook for your own expenses. Prearranged gap year programs can get expensive; some can cost between $10,000 and $20,000.

Don’t give up your search for affordable gap year programs, though. You just have to know what to look for. If you like the idea of staying in the US, for example, you can find plenty of affordable gap year programs. If you really want to travel abroad, you can find volunteer programs that provide your room and board for free in exchange for your work hours. However, be extremely careful with these programs. Always check for reviews and complaints before you sign up – some so-called “gap year programs” are really just taking advantage of naive young people.

Finally, you can look for programs that have scholarships and other financial aid. Some (usually highly competitive) programs will pay all expenses and even provide stipends or other benefits. Some independent organizations will offer gap year scholarships for students who meet their qualifications.

Have any more questions about your gap year university application or about deferred college acceptance? Want to know more about specific gap year programs, admission deferral letter samples, or anything else pertaining to your gap year? Then feel free to get in touch via the contact page.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

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