I took a gap year: How it went and how I transitioned to college

mary swing sits cross-legged on the ground and poses for a photo in front of city buildings and a large stone carved with chinese characters

After I graduated from high school, I had absolutely NO IDEA what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. To take off some of the pressure, I decided to embark on a gap year but stay in a semi-academic world. I took language classes in China and spent the year learning Mandarin Chinese and traveling. Staying in an academic environment helped me to focus on looking at schools while also gaining more world experience. Besides, learning a language never hurts your chances of getting into a school or landing a job, ever!

What is the value of taking a gap year?

Taking a gap year was valuable for many reasons, but mainly for gaining real-world skills. My time abroad helped me decide on a major because I absolutely knew that I wanted to continue learning about cultures, political systems, and languages. Using your gap year wisely can be an investment in your future as you learn more about yourself and what you want to study. I also matured significantly that year by learning how to be an independent adult. Then I had a smoother transition into Colorado State than I would have had straight out of high school.


When did I apply to CSU?

Even if you are not sure yet about whether CSU is “the one” or not, applying anyway is a good option. Because I am a Colorado resident, I applied on Colorado’s Free Application Day the fall before I came to CSU. Applying before the admissions decision date in the spring (February 1 for first-year students, June 1 for transfer students) increases your chances of being admitted and keeps CSU open as an option. You can even apply before you take your gap year.

Next steps?

After being admitted, I filled out my Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) since finances were a big deal for me. I also started working on my CSU Scholarship Application. I thought of it as a part-time job and scheduled my time working on it like it was a real job. For every hour I spent writing scholarship applications, I figured that it would be a good return of my time and energy if I ever did eventually receive a scholarship. The more scholarships you apply for, the more chances you have of getting one. Let’s face it: any scholarship, large or small, is a huge help!

Other recommendations?

Relax! Choosing a school with or without taking a gap year can still be stressful. Even if you fill your gap year with lots of activities, still try to take the time to learn more about yourself and your passions so that you can make the best decision for YOU!

Mary is a triple major in International Studies, Political Science, and Spanish with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. She is a member of a student ministry, Third Culture Kid (TCK) organization, and Knits of the Round Table (knitting club). She is also a student in the University Honors Program. Mary works as a student ambassador with the Office of Admissions and as a student archivist at CSU Morgan Library’s Archives and Special Collections. In her free time, Mary loves to play beach volleyball on the sand courts on campus, hammock, swim, read, go to the $2 movie theater, and find new places to eat in Fort Collins.

Curious about the more technical aspects of how a gap year works?

Read about timelines and what to expect here.

How does it work?