Should I Take a ‘”Gap Year”?

Choosing a major in college is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. If you are currently a high school junior or senior, are serious about music, and are considering applying for music schools in the not-too-distant future, you might want to think about taking a gap year prior to starting college. In today’s post I want to explore the gap year option—the pros, the cons, and how to decide if it’s the right fit for you.

Recent statistics show that there are very few risks associated with taking a gap year. For example, 90 percent of gap year students return to school within a year, and their overall grades are higher than for non–gap year students. Students who take a gap year are also more motivated and fired up to learn.

Here are several reasons a gap year would make sense for some students:

Audition readiness

For young pianists who are high school seniors in particular, juggling a rigorous 12th-grade academic load, a demanding instrumental practice schedule, and multiple upcoming audition trips is challenging, to say the least. These students might require more time to focus solely on preparing for their college piano auditions.


Some students graduate from high school early, at age 15 or 16. These younger graduates might feel unprepared for college life or living away from home. A gap year would allow these students the time to mature a bit more before leaving home for college and being on their own.

Needing more time to plan for your future

For students who haven’t quite figured out what school type is the best fit for them (for instance, conservatory vs. university) or what degree type they are interested in (Bachelor of Music vs. Bachelor of Arts, double degree, etc.), a gap year would allow ample time to explore their options.

English is your second language

For foreign students wishing to attend college in the United States, a gap year could be dedicated to refining their English skills and preparing for the challenging TOEFL test requirements set by U.S. universities. This is a personal choice and is certainly a reasonable path for foreign students needing to improve their English.

When a gap year may NOT be right for you:

Are you the disciplined type?

If discipline isn’t your strong point, a gap year could turn disastrous pretty quickly with very little work done and lots of couch surfing in front of the TV. A gap year must be well planned with a precise schedule and clearly defined goals. If you are a student who lacks self-discipline and the ability to follow a plan, taking a gap year may not be right for you.

One last thing to consider… 

How will you, as a piano student, improve during the gap year? Will you work with a teacher? Work on your own without guidance? Time off doesn’t always equate to improvement.

To sum up, a gap year is a good option for some, but it is not for everyone. Take a gap year ONLY if you have a clear idea and a plan as to how you will utilize your time off.

If you are planning to take a gap year to prepare for your upcoming college piano auditions, CLICK HERE to instantly download my FREE three-part video training and learn how you can play a fantastic piano audition.

Here’s a question for you: Are you planning for an upcoming piano audition but aren’t sure if you will be ready? Are you considering taking a gap year to prepare but are uncertain how to plan for it? What kind of challenges would a gap year address for you? Please share. I read all your comments!

Did you find this article helpful? If yes, share it with your friends or anyone you think will benefit from it.

2 responses on “Should I Take a ‘”Gap Year”?

  1. Peter Don

    Thank you so much for posting this article. It brings us some hopes. My son is thinking seriously about pursuing music career. He has played the piano for more than ten years and currently a senior in high school. I have a question about the process of admission. We are a low-income family, but we always try the best thing to help our child doing what he truly loves. If he decides to apply during a gap year after high school graduation, he has to work much harder and even finds a part-time job if possible because all of us don’t want to waste time. So when he applies to the music schools, does he follow the same process as first-time applicants who currently attend high school? Also, when applying for financial aid, are there anything be affected? Is there anything you could give us the advice or anything that he needs to be aware?

  2. Ory Shihor Post author

    Hi Peter,
    I am glad you found this blog helpful 🙂 No, there is really no difference between applying to a music school during senior year and during a gap year. Schools do not view slightly older applicants (19 and even 20) in a negative way since taking a gap year is quite common. I think it’s wonderful that your son is considering piano as a major and if a gap year will be helpful in terms of preparation, that’s what he should do. Getting a part time job is a good idea as it will provide him with structure. If you have other questions, feel free to reach out.

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