Taking a year’s break between high school and college or between undergraduate and graduate studies is said to be a ‘gap year’. Taking a gap year is becoming increasingly popular with students today. This is a time when the student takes time away from academic pursuits and explores other ways that contribute towards personality development by volunteering in international programs or studying courses and gaining practical exposure in some field that interests him or her apart from college studies. These activities in turn contribute to one’s growth personally and professionally.

Taking a gap year is increasingly becoming the norm and university admission committees have included gap year justification essays as an important part of the application. In India, however, the concept is relatively new. If you need time to think over your choice of career, you can gain exposure by working in the relevant field and later on home on to the program of your choice with the assurance of having enjoyed the experience.

Sometimes, you may have to take a gap year if you have fallen behind in your grades and you need to take time off from the other coursework to clear the courses that you haven’t done well in. Sometimes, you may need time off to attend classes and prepare for exams like the SAT/GRE/GMAT, TOEFL or IELTS. Along with these, you can also plan on taking up online certification courses relevant to the program you will be pursuing. But you cannot justify that this is the reason for taking a gap year. Hence, you need to have a plan B in place. You need to simultaneously pursue activities that will help in building your profile or add a new dimension to it through volunteering activities, or work and gain exposure relevant to the field of interest. For instance, you could take up volunteering for the ‘Teach for India’ program or gain international exposure by taking up an internship abroad or even visit other countries as a volunteer. You could also study a diploma in the relevant field or take up courses in a foreign language.

Here are a few pointers that you need to remember when you write your gap year essay:

State the reason for your decision to take a gap year – You need to mention precisely why you took a gap year. It could be either due to illness, to improve grades, gain relevant exposure through work experience or to prepare for other exams.

Mention in detail about your pursuit of various activities – Add value to the time spent away from college by giving a detailed account of the time spent and how you enriched your personality through various activities.

Sum up your learning and advantage gained through these experiences – Showcase the growth you have achieved through your exposure as an individual and professional.

Here is an example of a gap year essay written by a student:

In 2010, upon graduating from high school, I had to leave my parental home and move to Pune City to pursue my undergraduate education. However, the tuition fees, living expenses, and adjusting to the new environment proved to be much harder than I expected. My father was the sole breadwinner for our family. In order to relieve the burden from him, I took up a part-time job at a coffee shop. I also assisted at the college library, then the college canteen, so on. New city, different educational standards, along with the interchanging part-time jobs took a huge toll on my academic focus which ensued in a deteriorated academic performance. Owing to my poor performance, I had to discontinue my undergraduate studies twice- once after my freshman year, 2011-12 and once after my junior year, 2014-15. During these years, I took up paid internships and was actively involved in social activities. In 2011-12, I interned with Sai Dhara Agro Industries as an Industrial Trainee for six months. My responsibilities involved managing the wages of the employees, inventory, and also the production schedule. Another internship in 2014-15 I picked up was with Heramba jacks and centring material, in Operations and Process Improvement for one year.

Along with the industrial exposure, I actively volunteered for ‘Swapnapurti Foundation’, an NGO that focuses on raising awareness about the importance of education, health and hygiene, and the environment in the rural areas. We took up tree plantation drives, and also organized blood donation camps. However, my most memorable experience was travelling to remote rural areas in Maharashtra and providing the students and their parents there, the information about the educational opportunities available to them, along with the ways to achieve them. Coming from a small village myself, I was able to guide them through my personal experiences and the students and their parents were looking at me as if I had achieved an extraordinary feat. Sharing my experiences and guiding other undergraduate aspirants from these villages brought a sense of satisfaction to me. At the same time, it inspired me to pursue my education with a strong focus.

Since then, things took a miraculous turn for me and my family. My father was promoted at work with a hike in salary, which helped to end our financial crunches. With a sigh of relief and a renewed approach, I started my final year at college. My undergraduate education provided me a strong technical foundation with courses like Engineering Mathematics, Thermodynamics, Energy and Audit Management, Industrial Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, and Quality Control. To deepen my understanding, I am pursuing online certification courses in Project Management, Basics of Supply Chain Management to understand how engineering and business management can be amalgamated.

Upon graduation, despite my tainted academic record, I was selected as a Graduate Engineer Trainee in the purchasing department at Classic Auto Tubes Ltd. I was an integral part of the indirect inventory management team owing over 18 months’ industrial exposure through my internships. Herein, I sourced suppliers, negotiated credit and delivery terms, and followed up for delivery. This required evaluating suppliers on the basis of techno-commercial parameters as well as manage documentation for accurate tracking of the bill of material. My efforts saved the company Rs. 2.5 million annually.

I am aware of the kind of dedication, resilience, and resolve that is required. I believe that I am adequately prepared, both in terms of the pre-requisite technical skills and the right mindset for the program. I hope I will be favourably considered for admission for the graduate study with possible financial assistance. I look forward to joining _________ University as a graduate student. Given an opportunity, I am determined to make the most of it and be an exemplary ambassador for the University.

With this example, we conclude the discussion on the Gap year justification essay module.