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Articles / Applying to College / Should Newlywed-to-Be Apply to College Before or After Gap Year?

Should Newlywed-to-Be Apply to College Before or After Gap Year?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Dec. 1, 2011

Question: I plan to get married after I graduate high school and spend a gap year saving money and traveling, etc. Should I apply to colleges now? Or should I wait until after my gap year? Will a college I apply to now be likely to accept my application a year from now?

Many counselors are likely to tell you to apply to college now, while you still have easy access to your teachers, guidance counselor, etc. And, indeed, I used to agree. But over the years, I’ve started to change my tune. For seniors who seem to know exactly what they want or where they hope to be when their gap year is over, then applying to college while still in high school is probably the wisest route. But often new interests and preferences grow out of a year off, and the Internet facilitates contact with high school staff, even from distant corners of the world. So, increasingly, I’m suggesting a wait … especially in your case … and for several reasons.

For starters, many admission officers are going to raise their eyebrows with skepticism once they hear that you are about to be married. They may wonder how you will juggle newly-wedded life with the demands of college, especially at such a young age. They may also wonder if your plans to get married will pan out as expected and how any changes that occur might affect your educational goals.

So I think that your best bet would be to wait until after you’re married and are in the throes of your gap year before you file your applications. This way, you can report to colleges what you are doing, rather than what you expect to do, which ought to make you a stronger candidate.

Moreover, as a married college student you will probably be eligible for a lot more financial aid—should you need it—than you would be as a single applicant. Colleges treat married students as “emancipated,” and thus they consider your income and your spouse’s—but not your parents’—when assessing financial need. If you and your husband have lower earnings and assets than your parents do, this will work in your favor when financial aid determinations are made. (But it doesn’t mean that your parents can’t help pay for your education, if they are in a position to do so.)

Finally, as a teenager with wedding plans, you have probably already gotten more advice than you want, especially from those who are citing dismal teen-marriage statistics and urging you to proceed with caution. However, I’m going to toss out one more warning: If you expect to be in school full time while your husband is working, keep in mind that this can bring added stress to the relationship. You two may have strikingly different schedules. He will come home at the end of the day ready to relax or socialize while you will need quiet time to do your school work. If you are both in school, it may mean smoother scheduling but could put added economic pressure on the household.

Thus, hopefully, by taking a gap year after high school and postponing your college applications, you will gain a greater sense of what your goals for the years beyond will be and of how you and your fiancé can facilitate them together.

Good luck to you, whatever you decide.

(posted 12/1/2011)

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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