Find Out: Does a Gap Year Affect Financial Aid?

Oct 27, 2022 By Susan Kelly


Over time, the cost of college continues to rise. It's not surprising, however, that some high school graduates might put off continuing their education right away. The college experience may be too much for some students, while others may desire to see the world before settling into a routine. Others take advantage of the chance to earn money toward future educational expenses. It's natural to wonder about your identity before investing in a four-year degree program at great personal expense. However, some students may conclude that they want to return to school after taking a year out.

How a Gap Year Could Affect Your Financial Aid

Taking a gap year before college can seriously affect your financial aid package. Once you return from your gap year, the first thing you should do is complete a new FAFSA. Institutions of higher learning use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to ascertain whether or not a student is eligible for need-based federal and state grants and loans. It could also be used to determine whether or not you receive an internal scholarship. More about how a gap year could affect your financial aid and what you can do about it below.


Scholarships you receive directly from the institution may be deferred until your return. Many universities are flexible in their scholarship deferment policies. If you want the school to have time to figure out a solution, let them know that you plan on taking a gap year as soon as possible. The agreement in writing will provide you with legal protection in case of an issue during enrolment. Your luck in getting a moratorium on scholarships from a local nonprofit or a national organization depends on their policies. Students who take a gap year can also apply for and receive unique scholarships.

Federal and State Grants

As long as your family's financial position does not improve dramatically during your gap year, you will not lose eligibility for federal grants such as the Pell Grant or the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. For instance, if your household income is modest right now, you might be eligible for a Pell Grant. However, if your parent's income increases significantly next year, you may no longer qualify for the Pell Grant. Grants are available to students in most states based on various factors, including financial need, academic achievement, and other factors. Your eligibility for merit-based aid should remain the same, but your eligibility for need-based help may alter depending on your family's financial situation. The's quite close to the way that government handouts work.


Students with demonstrated financial need are eligible for work-study programs. Students awarded work-study positions often work 10–15 hours a week, mostly on campus. Your school may or may not pay more than the federal minimum wage per hour, but it should. You can lose your eligibility for a work-study position if you take a year off between college semesters. It's possible that by the time you fill out the FAFSA again, all the available work-study opportunities will have already been filled, or your family's financial situation will have improved to the point that you no longer qualify for need-based help. No college will guarantee you a work-study opportunity. If you are receiving work-study funds and need to take time off, don't assume your employer will still be waiting for you when you get back.

Apply First and Then Request a Deferral

A large infrastructure is set up to help pupils navigate college applications while still in high school. It's simpler for you to get the recommendation letters, transcripts, and testing changes you need. Not only do you have access to mentors in the form of instructors and guidance counselors, but they are also available to assist you in completing your application. All of this can be tough to accomplish on your own, and it will be considerably more time-consuming if you plan to travel during your gap year. When you have been accepted, write a letter asking to be postponed. Before making your first tuition payment, you should explain what you intend to do with your gap year.


Taking a year off between high school and college is a personal decision that may or may not impact your eligibility for federal student aid and scholarships. It's also worth noting that university admissions officers are generally kind and flexible when applicants explain a gap year in their application. Lastly, you may be required to justify taking a year off between high school and college. Prospective employers may be curious about the length of time it took you to complete high school and college. During the interview process, you should be ready to discuss your gap year and how it will make you a more valuable employee.

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