Want to Get Into Harvard? Take the Year Off

Last Updated Dec 11, 2009 6:50 PM EST

What happens if you don't get accepted into your dream school? Here's a suggestion: Take the year off and How to Get Into Harvard -- Take a Gap Yearthen try again.

Some students end up gaining admission to elite schools like Harvard, Duke and Princeton after they delayed their freshman year. Instead these status seekers embark on a gap year, which strikes me as more fun than kindergarten.

One student, who was wait-listed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took the year off rather than settle for his runner-up school. He used his time inventing an environmentally friendly scooter that Popular Science ultimately named the year's top invention. When the inventor applied to MIT again, he got the fat envelope.

A student, who was rejected by Grinnell College, spent the year teaching English abroad and received good news the next time she applied to the elite liberal arts college. A student, who got into Duke after experiencing a gap year, ended up becoming a Rhodes Scholar.

Heavyweights such as Harvard and Princeton are champions of gap-year experiences, according to Kristin White, the author of a new book entitled, The Complete Guide to the Gap Year: The Best Things to Do Between High School and College.

White found this nugget on Harvard's website:

"Occasionally students are admitted to Harvard or other colleges in part because they accomplished something unusual during a year off. While no one should take a year off simply to gain admission to a particular college, time away almost never makes one a less desirable candidate or less well prepared for college."


A less risky way to experience a gap year is to get into a college and then ask for a deferred admission. According to White, Harvard routinely allows 50 to 70 of its freshmen to delay their start. Here are the typical number of accepted freshmen, who choose gap years at other elite schools: Cornell (50 -60), Yale (30-40), Dartmouth (20-30), Stanford (30-40) and Georgetown (15-25).

Whatever your motivation, if you are interested in pursuing a gap year experience, do your research. And I'd start by reading White's book.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes about college for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.

Further Reading:

Is Harvard Going Broke?

Harvard's Stunning Mistakes

College Admission Season: Will Money Talk?

Get Into Harvard image by Mossaiq. CC 2.0.

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