Top 6 Gap-Year Pros and Cons for Out-of-State College Hopefuls


Gap-year pros and cons next exit sign

Next exit, gap-year pros and cons

If price were no object: where would you live, where would you go to college?

What if I told you a secret that allowed you to live in virtually any state, survive and thrive on your own, attend a top college and…that it would cost no more than going to college in your home state?  The secret: take a productive gap-year!

A gap-year is the most bulletproof way of showcasing your eligibility for in-state tuition which unlocks an affordable education in your chosen state.  A gap-year allows you the time and freedom to establish and support yourself, you are allowed to explore interests while making money instead of spending it, and you are empowered by managing your own finances which also has a way of revealing what you really care about.

Importantly, I’m talking about a productive gap-year.  I’m not talking about a year of leisurely world exploration.  I’m not talking about a year of doing nothing, napping on your parents couch, or purely “thinking about” your options.  I’m talking about an action-packed year of employment, self-reliance, and self-discovery through actions not thoughts.  Thinking about what you really want is paralyzing, act!  Move to the state and city where you most want to be, work at the best job you can find in any field of interest, support yourself and take a stab at adulthood before college the following year.

Before taking the plunge (it’s a big decision!), you should know what you’d be getting into.  On one side, taking a gap-year could be your ticket to in-state tuition and myriad other personal, professional, and financial benefits.  But beware, a gap-year is not for everyone; some are ill-suited for the journey which has the danger of turning into a disruptive detour.

Although lots of people could benefit from a gap-year, I’m going to focus on those who stand to benefit the most: out-of-state students or those wanting go live and go to college out-of-state.  I’ll help you consider what’s at stake, how a gap-year could help you earn in-state tuition, and offer the top 6 gap-year pros and cons.


How much could a productive gap-year be worth to me?

There are lots of ways a gap-year can make you money and save you money, but perhaps the biggest (and most easily quantified) way is by helping you earn in-state tuition.  Of the gap-year pros and cons, in-state tuition savings has to be the biggest pro…the savings can be staggering.


National Average Cost of Tuition

  • Out-of-State = $22,203/year
  • In-State = $8,893/year
  • Difference = $13,310/year
  • Difference = $53,240 total over the course of four years


University of Oregon-Eugene Cost of Tuition

  • Out-of-State = $29,160/year
  • In-State = $8,190/year
  • Difference = $20,970/year
  • Difference = $83,880 total over the course of four years


University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Cost of Tuition

  • Out-of-State = $44,822/year (business major 2014-15 average per year)
  • In-State = $15,837/year
  • Difference = $28,985/year
  • Difference = $115,940 total over the course of four years.


How would a gap-year help me get residency?

Getting in-state residency typically requires at least a year and involves establishing your domicile and proving some degree of financial independence depending on the university.  Taking a gap-year, typically either before freshman year or immediately after, can be an elegant solution to accomplish both.  A Gap-year assists in showcasing that you moved for more than school and allows you plenty of time to work and support yourself.

A Gap-year allows you to really concrete yourself as a resident in your new state by doing many other things that benefit proof of residency to the school, including in-state physical presence, employment, income earned in-state, payment of state taxes, and filing of state tax returns.  But importantly, there’s a lot more to getting in-state tuition than merely taking a year off from school and working.  It’s a complicated process that’s different in every state and every university so you need to make sure you know what you’re doing!  Some schools require a gap-year but most do not; nevertheless, it can be a great route to in-state tuition regardless.

Since all states and colleges have their own requirements, you’re encouraged to check out In-State Angels’ map that provides a simplified overview of state by state rules.  Whatever you do, don’t waste a year in vain thinking you’re on track.  If you’re going to do a gap-year, do it right!


Gap-year PROS and CONS:


The PROS: Benefits of a gap-year are personal, professional, financial.


#1 It helps you make the strongest possible case when petitioning for in-state tuition

In-state tuition could save you $50,000 to over $100,000 over four years depending on the college


#2 You get job experience which is a taste of what you have to look forward to after college

You think you want to work in publishing or own a restaurant or be an accountant?  Oh yeah, get a job in that sector for a year and see how it goes.  Maybe you’ll decide you hate it!  Isn’t it better to find that out now instead of a college education later?


#3 Make employment income you would have otherwise not made

After your gap-year, you may be able to keep your job on a part-time basis.  Otherwise, your resume is stronger so a different well-paid part-time job or internship opportunity is more in reach.


#4 It affords you the head-space to ponder, research, experience, and decide on your career and educational trajectory

That focus can help you minimize your years in college as opposed to an aimless 6-year degree of multiple major switches.


#5 You are on your own two feet and gain invaluable life experience, enabling a smoother transition into the real-world

Many times parents are a fan of this interim learning curve as it lessens the sometimes hard blow of the real-world after graduation.


#6 It provides the opportunity to get to know your new chosen home city and state and settle in

This will help ensure you’re in the right place and give you an opportunity to become more comfortable with your surroundings.  Moving and transitioning is tough and if you heap school on top of that, it’s a lot to ask.  By giving yourself time to settle in, you set yourself up for success with limited distractions once you return to your education.


The CONS: The negatives of taking a gap-year are largely personal.


#1 Gap-year could delay graduation for one year.

This isn’t a con in everyone’s mind and there’s an argument that you may actually graduate sooner because of increased focus.


#2 Depending on the university, you may need to re-apply

If the acceptance rate is low, you may not get back in.  Most schools do allow up to a one-year deferment if you are an incoming student, or a one-year break in attendance if you are currently attending.


#3 You risk not going back to school after your gap-year

Some folks worry that a break in school may sway future attendance.


#4 Requires a lot of maturity

Some students are ready to ‘leave the nest’, but are just not ready to dwell in their very own tree, so to say.  Gap-years are simply not for everyone.


#5 Requires a lot of Responsibility.

With a gap-year comes very adult responsibilities, especially with schools that require 100% self-support and even for schools that require only half self-support. Can you manage your money and pay bills on time? Can you earn enough money to support yourself (depending on the school)..?


#6 It’s not what I had in mind / it’s different than my plan

You didn’t know your options when you made that plan.  Now you do.  Given what you know, what do you think is in your best interest?


Conclusion & More Resources:

No one person is the same, so before you endeavor on a productive gap-year make sure it makes sense for you, that you understand everything you must do during that gap-year (if you have plans of petitioning for residency), and that you are willing and able to make it work.  Taking a gap-year can significantly and positively change a person’s life and future in many ways. Although there are many gap-year pros and cons to consider, the question is ultimately yours to answer: is it for you?

To learn more about in-state tuition in general, please see In-State Angels’ guide In-State 101: Crash Course Guide How To Get In-State Tuition

To learn the basics of state by state requirements, please see In-State Difficulty by State

To learn more about specific universities, please see University Rules or buy a University-Specific Report

To see other ways In-State Angels could help, please see Solutions

Have some more gap-year pros and cons, please comment!

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