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Articles / Applying to College / Gap Year and College Loan Repayment
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 17, 2010

Gap Year and College Loan Repayment

Question: I just completed my freshman year of college and would like to take a year off to do community service abroad and to reevaluate what my future career plan will be. I am wondering how that will impact re-entering sophomore year at my college when I return. Is this considered a deferment even though I have completed my first year? Please advise. Also, what about my current loans? Can payment be deferred or just interest paid? Thank you.

Taking a "gap year" while in college is a common practice, and you shouldn't have too much difficulty arranging with your current school to do so. However, each college has its own policies, so you'll have to check with a dean or other administrator to see how to proceed. Chances are, you will take an official leave of absence, which means that the college will hold a place for you when you return from your time off. Deferred students entering freshman year typically must submit a deposit to have their place held but leave-of-absence students often do not.


When it comes to your loans, you will also have to check with the financial aid office at your school since the answer will depend on the type of loans you have. For instance, the Federal Stafford Loan has a grace period of six months but the Federal Perkins Loan has a grace period of nine months before repayment begins. Thus, if you decide to take a leave of absence, you wouldn't have to repay such loans until the end of this grace period. Given the duration of these grace periods, you may decide that your needs are better suited by taking off just a semester rather than an entire year.

In either case, you need to speak to officials at your own college--both academic administrators and the financial aid staff--to find out how to best pursue your goals.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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