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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

On taking a ‘Gap Year’ by Matt McGann '00

Students admitted to MIT may want to consider taking a year before enrolling.

I’d like to talk a bit about deferring entry to MIT, also known as taking a gap year.


My hope is that you will at least consider, just for a moment, taking a gap year (I was happy to talk to some folks at CPW who were already considering this option!). If you are a member of the Class of 2015 and would like to request a one-year (or sometimes two-year) deferral from starting at MIT, it is super easy to do so. On your online reply form on your MyMIT portal, just choose


I will enroll at MIT and I request to defer my enrollment until the term beginning:


And then choose one of


  • September, 2012 (1 gap/deferral year)
  • September, 2013 (2 gap/deferral years)


We will then ask you to write us and tell us what you plan to do. We will grant a deferral for almost any reason (but generally not for continued schooling at a high school or university other than MIT). Come up with somewhat of a plan, and you’ll probably be fine. Some MIT students in recent years deferred to spend a year in Israel, others to do intensive music study, others to read the great books. What you do is up to you.


There are a bunch of good websites and books out there that can suggest good gap year options. One such book on my bookshelf is The Complete Guide to the Gap Year by Kristin M. White.

I should also note that if your gap year plans are not certain by the May 2 enrollment deadline, you can instead select the “Enrolling” option on the reply form, and then you can request a deferral any time right up until Registration Day in September (though I strongly suggest you do so well before that). No worries.

And if you already have submitted your reply form telling us you’re enrolling, again, no worries: you, too, can request a deferral any time right up until Registration Day in September (though, again, I strongly suggest you do so well before that).

Blogger alum Anthony wrote an excellent post on this very topic:


So you got into one of the best, most stimulating and resource-rich universities in the world. Welcome – MIT’s an amazing place (no matter what you’re here to study), and I bet you’re really eager to come – not just for Campus Preview Weekend, but to start your academic and life voyage as a freshman this fall semester. You’re probably already planning your summer, the changes from home to college … what to bring, how you’ll spend those last days with friends and family, perhaps visiting your favorite childhood haunts in a last bid to say goodbye. But what if you held off on all that?


Sounds crazy, right? – because you want to get away from your parents as soon as possible, start your own life, and not be told when to go to bed and what not to eat… well, whatever the reason, college is a way to leave home that’s accepted by both your friends and your folks (no matter how conservative), and you’re all ready to GO. It feels like the “right thing to do,” because after high school, don’t all good students go to college? And besides, what else would you do to prepare for that promising future you’ve always dreamed of (and, no doubt, the one everyone *expects* you to have)?

Let me ask you something else: if you had an entire year to do anything you want, with unlimited time, no expectations, no SATs or class ranks or gossip or student club presidencies to get in the way… what would you do? Let’s just pretend that after you graduate, instead of just returning to school in the fall, you finally get to work on that dream project, tinker in that lab, or spend a year overseas (all expenses paid) teaching something you know and learning everything you never knew all at the very same time. And you’d wake up every day knowing that MIT’s just down the road.


From my years in admissions, the overwhelming sentiment from students who have taken a gap year has been:

No one ever regrets having taken a gap year, but plenty of people regret not having taken one.

The bottom line here is that it is okay to slow down. Life, college, career — it’s not a race. Feel free to write me if you need more information about taking a gap year, I’m happy to help.

14 responses to “On taking a ‘Gap Year’”

  1. Alex says:

    Woop! It seems that MIT admitted too many freshman this year, and now they realize that the matriculating class of 2015 is perhaps too big for MIT to handle! Pure speculation, of-course, but judging by the tone of this blog, it seems this is exactly the case.

  2. Matt '00 says:

    Alex — no, I’ve had this entry written for a while, set to publish the day after CPW. And, I’ve published (very) similar entries in previous years, in some of which we admitted many students from the waitlist.

    I write this entry not from an enrollment management perspective, but rather from an educational perspective. I truly believe that more students should consider gap years.

  3. Alex says:

    Sorry Matt, you have my sincere apologies for wrongly speculating.

  4. dex says:

    if i request to defer , do i have to necessarily join MIT next year? … in what if after the gap year i dont want to join MIT(pls dont be offended, MIT is awesome but…)

  5. oasis '11 says:

    @ Alex –

    Just also wanted to point out that suggesting students take gap years would still be probably an incredibly inefficient way of paring down the class size…

  6. Bhaskar says:

    @Keri Thanks for clearing this.I was unsure about this but still wrote-as much as I figured out on my own.

    @Matt Is there anything like the number of students who take a gap year or two,the same number of students are admitted less in that particular year admissions.Like if 10 people opt.for a gap year from class of 2015,then in the class of 2016,there would be 10 less admissions.I read it somewhere on the blogs as much as I remember.if this is not the case,then please tell me in what case this happens.

  7. dex says:

    thanks for clearing that up. you are pretty sure about it right?
    also MIT is awesome, agreed , no debates there but i dont want to be tied up in any sort of obligation of attending a specific university considering that a lot can change in a gap year.

  8. Bhaskar says:

    @dex Yes you have to join MIT if you take the gap year.

    @Alex See many students take a gap year or two for whatever reason they would like to but,this is the choice of the student.No one from MIT asks anyone to do it.They give you a choice.Even if you don’t consider that,it doesn’t matter at all to the MIT family.

  9. @Matt………I have the same question as Bhasker’s. Do the number of GAPs affect the number of acceptances of the particular (GAP entry) year? MIT always says that it has limited seats, so the acceptance rates are as low as x%. So aren’t those GAPs killing the chances of the new students?

  10. Keri says:

    @Bhaskar (+ dex): untrue. If you defer admission and after the gap year decide that you do not want to attend MIT, then you don’t have to attend MIT.

    We *are* pretty awesome here, though. Just sayin’.

  11. R says:

    You never have to attend a university- you can always not. Just remember, if you take a gap year it means you can attend MIT but you must reapply for other universities. If MIT is not the place for you, consider choosing that now before May 1st.

  12. dex says:

    you sure right?

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  14. Thank you for this entry! It has definitely opened doors that I have never even seen as options before. I’ve been researching nonstop on this topic and am considering going on an adventure of a lifetime before, well, another adventure of a lifetime: MIT. About how many students each year take a gap year? I have never seen it as a very popular option, but I now see it in a new light. Is there anyone I can contact about taking a gap year before the ‘tvte?