To round out our Senior Summer Send-offs, we hear the experience and perspective of a recent graduate who made the decision to take a gap year. Anna has deferred from Stanford University, and she’s excited to travel to Ireland this fall. I hope you’ll find her insight as interesting as I have!
Let’s dive in and talk about your decision to take a gap year. What motivated this choice?
“Taking a gap year was never anything I had considered. I love a plan, and I had planned for high school, then college, then grad school. In early June, I got an email for school outlining their plan and it wasn’t anything I realistically wanted. They were only having two classes on campus per quarter, and they didn’t say which classes would be there at which time. A big part of what I was excited about were the people and the activities of the full college experience, and I decided to pull the plug. I applied for a bunch of gap year programs, which felt like the college application process all over again.
“I will be traveling through Irish Gap Year for three months this fall. I’ll live in a town called Donegal, on the Northern coast. This program seemed like it had the highest likelihood of running [despite COVID]. I really liked the [administrators] I spoke with, and it sounded like a really good fit. I’ll come home at the end of November, when I’ll be able to see my friends, who will be home on winter break. I’m not sure what the spring will look like right now, and I’m keeping my options open.
“I will be participating in the adventure and leadership program, which has a lot of hiking and kayaking paired with a lot of community service. One of the things I will be doing is teaching surf lessons for kids with disabilities, which is a really perfect fit for me [due to my interest in working with students with disabilities]. There will also be a lot of cultural immersion stuff, and the program will give us space to be college students. I’m living with 15 kids. I’m going in blindly, but that’s sort of what a traditional college experience is.”
Why did you choose Stanford?
“My dad went to Stanford, and he took me to visit when I was 5. I was like, ‘I love it here, I have to go!’ [which continued through middle school.] In high school, I was like, ‘no one gets into Stanford,’ so I let it go. I started thinking more realistically about [a range of] schools in the Midwest and on the West Coast. I applied early to Stanford and figured why not. When I opened my letter and it said congrats, it was obviously really exciting, but after I got in, I realized this was it! It ended up working out! I am definitely intimidated by the students and the environment, but this wasn’t something I was going to turn down. It’s definitely going to take some time to adapt and adjust.”
What is your intended major?
“I am undecided to the max! When I went on college tours with my parents, and the tour guide would ask where you’re from and what you’d like to major in, everyone seemed to have everything, such as majors, minors, and research topics, all planned out. After applying to college and experiencing the process, I’ve realized I was actually reasonable throughout [by not landing on a specific major in advance].”
What are you most excited for in the two years ahead?
“For both my gap year and for Stanford, I’m most excited to meet new people, immerse myself in a new environment, meet new friends, and make new connections. I’m kind of looking at it like I’m going to overnight camp [which I did for 9 summers].”
What are you most nervous about?
“I think my answer is the same. I’m nervous about meeting new people. It’s a mix of being excited and being nervous. Obviously it’s a little intimidating when you’re somewhere new with no one you’ve ever met.”
Have you connected with your roommate or other students on campus?
“I met one person, who lives in New York, earlier in the spring. She ended up being in town one day, so I drove up and had lunch with her, and we’ve been in contact ever since. She ended up taking a gap year too, so it’s been really nice to have someone else in the same boat as me. I think we were both pleasantly surprised to find someone who we found a connection with so easily. Now, we’re both in the class of 2025.”
What advice would you give to students going through the application process now?
“Take a deep breath and then buy a calendar and make a schedule for yourself. That was definitely something that made a huge difference–trying to stay organized and on top of due dates. I got a huge desk calendar, and laid out different deadlines like, ‘finish my essay by this date,’ and ‘finish my applications by this date.’ I had friends who didn’t do that and had a harder time.
“It was a very stressful time for me, and I had to recognize that my parents only wanted to help me out. Allow your parents to support you. Don’t push them away. I definitely had a lot of times when I was like, ‘I need to deal with this on my own,’ but definitely allow support from your parents and your friends. It’s really easy to get in your own head and want to do everything yourself, but try to open yourself to your parents and friends; your friends are going through the same thing.
“Also, when I wrote the first draft of my essay, I was like, ‘that was horrible!’ and I shut off the computer and was like, ‘I’m done!’ But then I realized this was definitely only the first draft of my essay. You have to re-read and edit your essay until you’re dreaming about it. You really have to keep working on it more than you ever have in your life.”
Throughout these interviews, it has been so affirming to see that what students are equally looking forward to and nervous about is connecting with others in their new homes. It’s exciting to think about all that they have ahead of them and the many opportunities they will encounter in the months and years to come.
Thank you so much for sharing about your decision to defer at Stanford and about your upcoming gap year, Anna. Wishing you a wonderful trip to Ireland this fall!
Do you have questions about the college application process and finding the best schools for you or your student? Send an email to danaroseroth at gmail dot com to set up a complimentary 30-minute consultation!