Taking a Gap Year Before College: 3 Collegiette Success Stories

Forging a New Path

Like Taylor, Addison Voelz of Columbus, Indiana, felt lost by the time her high school graduation rolled around.  She had planned to follow the crowd to nearby Indiana University, but after careful thought she decided to take some time off and find a path better suited to her passion for fashion.  

“Everyone from my high school goes to Indiana University after high school,” she says.  “That was sort of the expected thing for me to do – my parents and friends wanted me to go there because it’s close to home and all my friends could continue going to school together.”

So during her senior year of high school, Addison did indeed apply to and enroll in Indiana University… but something didn’t feel quite right to her.

“I was so lost in what exactly I wanted to major in, and I was wondering if IU was really the right school for me,” she says.  “I had a part of me that wanted to go away and meet new people and see new things.”  

Despite her parents’ best efforts to convince her that IU was perfect for her, Addison knew it wouldn’t give her the adventure and freedom she desired.  “My aha moment was when I applied for a random roommate for the dorms, and out of the 15,000 undergrads, I was matched with a girl from my high school that I was friends with,” she says.  “That moment, plus a horrible orientation, and I just knew IU was not the school for me.”

Rather than spending time and money on a school she didn’t love, Addison decided to take a year off to work and take classes at a local community college while she figured out what to do next.  As it turns out, that plan didn’t happen either because a few weeks later she found herself in New York City, touring the Fashion Institute of Technology and, ultimately, finding her new home.  

“[Fashion school] was the perfect combination of my love for fashion and my thoughts of going to business school,” she says. “I knew I wanted to do fashion, and I knew Indiana was not the place for that.”

After falling in love with FIT, Addison immediately decided to move to New York right away, take a year off to work in the fashion industry, establish residency in New York, and adjust to life in the city.  “I immediately began applying to the school, and I was accepted for the spring semester, however I decided to begin establishing my residency so I could cut my tuition in half,” she says.  Like most public colleges and universities, FIT offers a reduced tuition rate for in-state students.  “So I lived in the city for a year, had lots of fun, saw so much, experienced a lot, and met some awesome people.”

During her year off, Addison worked a job and two fashion internships in the city, which allowed her to gain real-world knowledge and experience in her dream career and helped her to establish her New York residency.  

“I am working my butt off now to graduate in three years by taking summer school and winter school, but I would not have changed it,” she says.  “That year I took off was probably one of my greatest years.”

Having the courage to follow your dreams, no matter how crazy it seems, can certainly pay off – even if it means delaying college!  It only took Addison a matter of weeks to give up on Indiana University, move to New York, and start on the road to a great fashion career.  

“I knew that this was my time to meet new people, make connections, and network for my future career, and staying in the same circle wouldn’t get me any of that,” Addison says.  “I was certainly a little scared though, moving to New York and applying to a school that I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted to.  I began thinking of a Plan B, but I really didn’t have one.”

Fortunately, her Plan A worked out, and Addison can now call herself a fashion merchandising major at FIT, despite a few bumps in the road.  

Addison’s break from school took a big leap of faith on her part.  If you feel like the path you’re on just isn’t right, who knows where your big leap of faith could land you!  As Addison’s story shows, it’s never too late to change your mind and follow your heart. But, if you’re going to withdraw from a school you’ve already enrolled in, it’s best to do so as soon as possible.  Be sure to check with the registrar’s office at the college or university regarding withdrawal deadlines and refund policies.  If you make up your mind soon enough, you might be able to get a refund on some of your enrollment fees.

During a gap year, consider getting an internship in a field that interests you so that you can gain valuable experience (and maybe even a paycheck) while you figure out your next move.  While a drastic change like Addison’s inevitably seems scary, seek support from your family and friends to give you the courage you need to take the leap and make the change that’s right for your future.  Also, try reaching out to people in your internship or at the school you’d like to go to – talking to someone who has been in your shoes is a great way to prepare yourself for a big change.  

Alex is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is double-majoring in Journalism and Spanish. Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, she likes to say that you can take the girl out of the beach, but you can't take the beach out of the girl. She plans to pursue a career in public relations, and she may even do so speaking Spanish! She has a serious case of wanderlust and big dreams of traveling the world. For now, though, Alex enjoys cheering on her Tar Heels, heading home to the beach in the summer, and writing for HC, of course! Keep up with Alex by visiting her website at www.alexgladu.wordpress.com.

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