College and Career Planning

It’s never too early to start planning for your future, no matter what it may entail. This page provides an abundance of resources for all college and career paths.

The College & Career Center will be open for students to seek advisement, work on college, trade school, and military applications, apply for scholarships, write and revise college essays, pick up college brochures, and attend college visits. Parents are also welcome to schedule an appointment at the College & Career Center if they have questions and concerns regarding post-secondary education/careers or concurrent enrollment information. The College & Career Center is located in Room 124.

College and Career Planning News

Who to Contact

Headshot of Kelli Myrick
Kelli Myrick
College & Career Counselor
Career Resources

Naviance is a comprehensive college, career and life readiness solution that helps schools align student strengths and interests to postsecondary goals, and connecting learning to life.


Sign-up to receive College and Career News from Ms. Myrick each month, including information about scholarships, college and career fairs, and more.

Many students and parents have questions about the FAFSA. This is a resource to help you with guides related to best practices for completing the FAFSA.

Resources to Prepare for College

The College Application Process – The Basics

Applying to College is FAST:

F ees
A pplication
S end Scores
T ranscript

FEES: You will pay the application fee or submit a fee waiver (if you qualify – see the information about Application fee waivers below) at the end of your application. Fees per application can range from $45.00- $120.00.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education has teamed up with colleges and universities all across the state of Colorado to waive college application fees for all Colorado students mid-October each year. Date for 2021 October 19-21.

Fee Waivers: To be eligible for fee waivers, students must be on free and reduced lunch. If you think you are eligible, but you are not on free and reduced lunch, please see Mrs. Myrick. Eligible students can receive fee waivers that make their SAT/ACT testing free and some qualify for additional waivers for SAT Subject tests. Students are also given 4 fee waivers in their College Board account to apply to college after taking the SAT.

APPLICATION: Students applying to a state institution will complete applications on the college website, unless the college uses Common Application. Many private and prestigious universities utilize the Common Application found on  Most applications become available online for students on July 1, 2021. By using Common Application, students can easily copy their application information over to another application.  The application includes student demographic information, course history, residency questions, extracurricular and volunteerism, talents awards & honors, employment information, and an essay or two if the college requires.

SEND SCORES: Send SAT or ACT official scores to the colleges you are applying to.  If you have not taken one of the exams yet, the college you are applying to cannot consider your application until you have at least one set of scores from one of the tests.
SAT sign up, send scores, & testing dates:
ACT sign up, send scores, & testing dates:

STEM document

ACT vs SAT: Key differences between the ACT and SAT

ACT vs SAT: which test is a better fit for your student? Students may take whichever test they prefer (assuming there are available testing locations for both tests). If you’re not sure which test your child would prefer, consider the key differences between the ACT and SAT. Some students find that the ACT caters to their strengths more so than the SAT, and vice versa.

Need a quick side-by-side comparison of the tests? Check out our ACT vs. SAT Comparison Chart.

Content-based test Type of Test Content-based test
Reading: 1, 65-min section; Math: 1, 25-min section (no calculator) & 1, 55-min section (w/ calculator); Writing & Language: 1, 35-min section; Essay: 1, 50-min section (optional) Test Format English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 40-min essay (optional)
Reading, relevant words in context, math, grammar & usage, analytical writing (optional) Content Covered Grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)
Questions are evidence and context-based in an effort to focus on real-world situations and multi-step problem-solving Test Style Straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher
Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing are each scored on a scale of 200-800. Composite SAT score is the sum of the two section scores and ranges from 400-1600 Scoring English, Math, Reading, and Science scores range from 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges from 1-36
No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers Penalty for Wrong Answers? No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers
Yes – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges. However, some colleges require or recommend that students submit all scores. Students should review the score-reporting policy of each college to which they plan to apply. Score Choice? Yes – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges.  However, some colleges require or recommend that students submit all scores. Students should review the score-reporting policy of each college to which they plan to apply.
Math questions generally increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section. Reading passage questions generally progress chronologically through the passage, not by difficulty level. Writing & Language passage questions do not progress by difficulty level. Difficulty Levels For the English and Reading sections, the difficulty level of the questions is random. For the Math section, questions generally increase in difficulty as you progress through the section. For the Science section, passages generally increase in difficulty as you progress through the test, and questions generally become more difficult as you progress through a passage.
Arithmetic, problem-solving & data analysis, heart of algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, and trigonometry; formulas provided Math Levels Arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided
Seven times per year: March or April, May, June, August, October, November, December (note that some states offer the SAT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates) Offered when? Seven times per year: February, April, June, July, September, October, December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates)
Typically about four weeks before the test date Registration deadline? Typically about five to six weeks before the test date More Information

SAT and ACT Conversion Chart

SAT Composite Score ACT Composite Score
1570-1600 36
1530-1560 35
1490-1520 34
1450-1480 33
1420-1440 32
1390-1410 31
1360-1380 30
1330-1350 29
1300-1320 28
1260-1290 27
1230-1250 26
1200-1220 25
1160-1190 24
1130-1150 23
1100-1120 22
1060-1090 21
1030-1050 20
990-1020 19
960-980 18
920-950 17
880-910 16
830-870 15
780-820 14
730-770 13
690-720 12
650-680 11
620-640 10
590-610 9


The College Opportunity Fund program provides a stipend for new and continuing in-state students going to college in Colorado. To receive the stipend, a student must apply for and authorize the use of the stipend at their respective institution. The stipend replaces traditional direct legislative appropriations to the state’s colleges and universities. Without the stipend, a student is responsible for the full amount of tuition which equals in-state tuition plus the stipend amount.

The goal of the COF program is to bring awareness to Colorado resident students that state funds exist to help finance their college education and improve access with a particular emphasis on higher education/K-12 linkages and strengthening accountability.

Applying for COF

Student Eligibility

Public Institutions

Undergraduate students at participating public institutions may receive a stipend from the College Opportunity Fund if they meet the following requirements:

  • Enrolled at a state institution of higher education
  • Classified as an in-state student for tuition purposes
  • Have applied for and been accepted into the COF program
  • Have requested a payment from the COF on their behalf to their attending institution
  • Are receiving undergraduate instruction
  • Have not exceed their lifetime credit-hour limitation (145 credit hours) or have already completed their baccalaureate degree and are eligible to receive stipend payments for an additional 30 undergraduate credit hours

Private Institutions

COF: 2008 Request For Information

Undergraduate students at participating private institutions may receive a stipend from the College Opportunity Fund if they meet the following requirements:

  • Classification as an in-state student for tuition purposes (CRS 23-18-102 (5)(a)(II)(A)
  • A graduate of a Colorado high school or has successfully completed a nonpublic home-based educational program (CRS 22-33-104.5)  Private institutions may choose to accept the GED test as equivalency for the high school diploma based on Commission policy.
  • Demonstrate a financial need through the student’s eligibility for the Federal Pell need based program. (CRS 23-18-102(5)(a)(II)(C))
  • Receive undergraduate instruction  and have not exceeded the 145 credit hour limit or have completed a baccalaureate degree and are eligible to receive stipend payments for an additional 30 credit hours. (CRS 23-18-202-(5)(c)(I))

ASSET – Undocumented Students

In March 2013, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 13-033, often referred to as the Colorado ASSET legislation. This legislation modifies several procedures concerning the classification of students for tuition purposes. The Colorado Department of Higher Education is in receipt of many questions from campus and school administrators regarding the ways in which Senate Bill 13-033 will be implemented, the changes it makes to current state law, and the ways in it affects existing administrative procedures. This document is intended to serve as a general reference for commonly asked questions concerning SB 13-033. This guidance will be revised as new, unique questions are received by the Department of Higher Education.

How to Choose a College

Students primarily choose colleges based on their major of choice and whether or not they fit the admission criteria. Other factors include level of prestige, cost, location, size, and extracurricular activities.

It is important for students to set realistic goals for themselves and apply to schools that are within their reach and a little above their reach. Students should sort and classify the schools they apply to in order to ensure they are setting realistic, possible college goals. Read the criteria below to determine if you are choosing colleges that within a reasonable set of expectations.

Match – A match school is one where your academic credentials (GPA, SAT or ACT scores, and extracurricular involvement) fall well within (or even exceed) the school’s range for the average freshman. There are no guarantees, but it is not unreasonable to be accepted to several of your match schools.

Dream-  A dream school is one where your academic credentials are below the school’s range for the average freshman or a school that is incredibly competitive (private universities, Ivy Leagues). Dream schools are long-shots, but they should still be possible (and not a dream).

Safety – A safety school is one where your academic credentials are above the school’s range for the average freshman. You should be reasonably certain that you will be admitted to your safety schools. Like the rest of your list, these should also be colleges you would be happy to attend. In addition to an admissions safety school, it is a good idea to include a financial safety school on your list, one that you and your family can afford even if you received no aid at all.

I highly recommend that all students apply to 2 Safety, 3-4 Match, and 1-2 Dream universities.

Articles on How to Narrow Your College List:

College Research Tools

  • The number one recommendation is for students and parents to research options and ask questions early. Naviance is an excellent resource when it comes to choosing a college. If students are undecided about their majors, they can re-visit the results of their Strengths Explorer tests and read about their personality. Students can also read about careers and add them to their career list while considering possible college majors. One of the best research features in Naviance is the Super Match College Search. Students can use this feature to search for colleges based on interest, size, location, cost and test scores. Students can view admission information in order to determine if the college is a realistic option.
  • To access the SuperMatch search tool in Naviance, click on Colleges à Find Your Fit à SuperMatch College Search.
  • All About SuperMatch Video:
  • See the College Comparison Chart PDF for an excellent resource to make notes while exploring potential universities.
  • Big Future College Search Tool
  • My Colorado Journey
  • College Navigator
  • Colleges that Change Lives
  • CollegeXpress
  • Unigo

Specialized Lists

Differential Tuition – Important for CE/AP Students

Differential Tuition: A tuition setting strategy whereby an institution charges a higher per-credit-hour rate for more expensive programs. This cost is often set after students accumulate are certain amount of hours.

For Example, Colorado State University:

Differential tuition is tuition charged to students according to the specific courses they take after they have reached 60 credit hours.  Those 60 credits include any Concurrent Enrollment (CE) credits taken off campus or at stem and/or AP or IB credits the student transferred from high school coursework.

Financial Aid Resources & FAFSA

What is FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid (including the Pell Grant, Federal student loans and Federal Work-Study).


Do I have to pay to submit it?

Do I HAVE to do it?
Schools require it. You cannot receive a scholarship without it. You cannot receive a loan or grant without it. Even if you plan to pay for college on your own or think your income level will be too high, you may be able to receive loans that you don’t have to pay back.

Where do I find this form?
The FAFSA is available online at FAFSA on the Web.
You can download a  paper copy at or call 800-4-FED-AID (433-3243).

When do I fill this form out?
The form becomes available each year for incoming college freshman on October 1st.

When is the deadline?
To be considered for federal student aid for the 2021-22 award year, you can complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) between October 1, 2021 and midnight Central Time, June 30, 2022.

However, many states and colleges have earlier deadlines for applying for state and institutional financial aid. You can find your state’s deadline at Check with your college about its deadlines.

FIRST COME FIRST SERVE. Note: Most schools have a March 1st PRIORITY deadline.

What do I need to fill this form out?

  • Get a PIN. Get a U.S. Department of Education personal identification number (PIN) by filling out the short application at Write this down somewhere you will remember.
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • A Federal Student Aid PIN to sign electronically. (If you do not already have one, visit to obtain one.

You will also need most of the above information for your parent(s)What is a PIN?
A PIN is (almost always) a four-digit number that is used in combination with your Social Security number, name, and date of birth to identify you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on Federal Student Aid websites such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM) at If you are a parent of a dependent student, you will need your own PIN if you want to sign your child’s FAFSA electronically. If you have more than one child attending college, you can use the same PIN to sign all of their applications.

Your PIN is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your PIN to anyone!

Where can I use my PIN?

When you first apply for your PIN, it is considered to be conditional until your information is verified with the Social Security Administration (SSA). You may sign your online FAFSA with it, but nothing else.

How do I get a PIN?

Go to and provide a few pieces of information such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address.

You will be given the option of creating your own PIN or having the site create one for you. If the site creates one for you, you can choose to have your PIN displayed immediately on the screen. Otherwise, you can choose to receive an e-mail that will give you the link to a site where you can access your PIN. We won’t send your PIN to you in the e-mail itself for security reasons. Instead, we’ll ask you for some personal information to identify yourself before we show you your PIN.

What if I lose my pin?
If you have lost or forgotten your PIN, you need to request a duplicate. To do so, visit the PIN Home Page and select Request A Duplicate PIN from the list of options on the left side of the page. You will need to provide your challenge answer to request a duplicate PIN. When requesting a duplicate PIN, you can choose to either instantly view your PIN online or immediately receive an e-mail containing a hyperlink to your PIN.

If you think your PIN was compromised (i.e., you think someone else knows it), then you should not request a duplicate PIN; instead, you should change your PIN. You can choose your own new PIN, or we can randomly generate one for you. To change your PIN, select Change My PIN from the list of options on the left side of the PIN Home Page.

I am stuck. How do I get help on this application?

  • For help, go to the free government website Completing the FAFSA. It has a detailed question-by-question guide to filling out the FAFSA.
  • More free help can be found at FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions and Student Aid on the Web.
  • You can also call:
    Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)
    800-4-FED-AID (433-3243) / TTY 800-730-8913
    Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern Time
    Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time

What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
When you file your taxes, your information will become available through FAFSA TWO WEEKS AFTER you file. This tool used in the form will transfer your income tax data directly from the IRS to your online FAFSA.

If you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and choose to do so, you’ll be transferred from the online FAFSA to the IRS website, which will guide you through the transfer of your tax information. When you’re done, you’ll be sent back to your FAFSA.

What is an EFC?
Expected Family Contribution (EFC):
On the front page of the SAR, you’ll find a figure called the expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is an indicator of your family’s financial strength. It is sent to your state scholarship agency as well as to the colleges you listed on the FAFSA. They use this number to determine your financial aid award. Learn more about the EFC.

How can I check to see whether my FAFSA has been processed? 
You can check the status of your FAFSA immediately after submitting it online.

If your FAFSA is still being processed,wait a few days before checking the status again.

Where does my FAFSA information go once submitted?
Your FAFSA information is shared with the colleges and/or career schools you list on the application. The financial aid office at a school uses your information to figure out how much federal student aid you may receive at that school. If the school has its own funds to use for financial aid, it might use your FAFSA information to determine your eligibility for that aid as well. (The school might also have other forms it wants you to fill out to get school aid, so check with the financial aid office to be sure.)

Your information also goes to your state higher education agency, as well as to agencies of the states where your chosen schools are located. Many states have financial aid funds that they give out based on FAFSA information.

So, your FAFSA helps you apply for federal, state, and school financial aid. Not bad for a form that takes students an average of less than half an hour to complete!

Who will I hear from, and when? 

The office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA data you submitted. You’ll get your SAR within three days to three weeks after you submit your FAFSA. Be sure to look over your SAR to make sure you didn’t make a mistake on your FAFSAFind out more about the Student Aid Report, its purpose, how the type of FAFSA you file determines when you’ll get the SAR, and what you should do with it.

The SAR won’t tell you how much financial aid you’ll get. Instead, if you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper aid offer, sometimes called an award letter, telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school. The timing of the aid offer varies from school to school and could be as early as springtime (awarding for the fall) or as late as immediately before you start school. It depends on when you apply and how the school prefers to schedule awarding of aid.

How do I figure out what financial aid to accept and what to deny?
You’ll need to understand the aid that’s being offered (for instance, is it free money such as a grant, or is it a loan that you’ll have to pay back?), decide what aid you really need, and then respond to the school’s award letter within the deadline set by the school.

Order in which you should accept aid:

  1. Scholarships and grants – Make sure you understand the conditions you must meet (for instance, you might have to maintain a certain grade-point average in order to continue receiving a scholarship, or your TEACH Grant might turn into a loan if you don’t teach for a certain number of years under specific circumstances).
  2. Work-study – You don’t have to pay the money back, but you do have to work for it, so take into account that that’ll mean less time for studying. However, research has shown that students who work part-time jobs manage their time better than those who don’t!
  3. Federal student loans – You’ll have to repay the money with interest. Subsidized loans don’t start accruing (accumulating) interest until you leave school, so accept a subsidized loan before an unsubsidized loan.
  4. Loans from your state government or your college – You’ll have to repay the money with interest, and the terms of the loan might not be as good as those of a federal student loan. Be sure to read all the fine print before you borrow.
  5. Private loans – You’ll have to repay the money with interest, and the terms and conditions of the loan almost certainly will not be as good as those of a federal student loan.

How do I get my money? 
The financial aid staff at your college or career school will explain exactly how and when your aid will be paid out. They also will tell you whether you need to fill out any more paperwork or meet other requirements. For instance, if you’re receiving a federal student loan for the first time, you should expect to be required to sign a promissory note and go through entrance counseling. Be sure to keep in touch with your school’s financial aid office so that you understand the whole process of receiving your aid.

What are some need-based federal student aid programs?

When will my school send a financial aid package and what will be in it?

Do I need to do anything else for my college to apply the financial aid?
After you complete the FAFSA, make sure you submit any additional financial aid forms that your colleges require. For example, some colleges require you to submit the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® or their own forms.

My parents won’t fill out FAFSA. What do I do?

This is an excellent article that explains all the different circumstances in which parents can’t or won’t pay for college. You should find some help here:

Scholarship Resources

Finding scholarship money isn’t as hard as we might think, but it takes time, effort, and resources. You will need to research and read the eligibility of a scholarship to see if you fit the criteria.

Scholarships through Universities:

Most universities offer a scholarship application or it may be part of the admission application. Check with the university you are applying to in order to find out the scholarship deadlines, what you may be eligible for, and how to apply for their scholarships. Do not wait to do this as scholarship deadlines for universities tend to be early fall.

Scholarships in Naviance:

STEM School Highlands Ranch posts all the scholarships we hear about in Naviance. Students have access to this list and should use it throughout the year. This is THE FIRST place students should check for their scholarships outside of university scholarships. Many of the scholarships posted in Naviance are local. Many scholarships from the community appear around January and close in the months between February and June. View this list frequently for new additions as scholarships are updated weekly.

Scholarship search engines:

The following search engines can be used to search for scholarships.

  • ScholarshipOwl – Fill out one application for multiple scholarships, and the website will automatically submit your applications for you. While other scholarship websites simply match you to potential awards, ScholarshipOwl speeds up the application process so you can increase your chances for funding.
  • FastWeb – A popular scholarship search engine that matches you with scholarships based on your interests, degree program, age, skills and more. FastWeb has over 1.5 million scholarships in its database.
  • Chegg – While Chegg is primarily used to rent college textbooks, it has also become a leading resource for scholarship applications online. The website currently has 25,000 scholarships to choose from, and it continues to grow every year.
  • College Board – If you’ve taken the SAT or any AP tests, chances are you’ve already interacted with the College Board. This organization now has 2,200 scholarships to choose from, totaling $6 billion in awards.
  • – This is a massive resource for college scholarship applications with over 3.7 million scholarships and grants in the database. You can select scholarships by category, or you can create a profile to get matched with scholarship opportunities.
  • Scholly – Scholly is similar to other scholarship matching websites, but its integrated app makes it easy to search for scholarships on your phone. You can track your current scholarship applications and search for new ones no matter where you go.
There are many other scholarship search engines and apps. You should NEVER have to pay to search or apply for scholarships. I recommend using free resources only!


  • What are the application deadlines for admission?
  • Do you offer Early Decision or Early Action?
  • What is the average high school GPA of the entering freshman class?
  • Do you accept AP credit? Is there a limit?
  • When do I have to declare a major?
  • What if I do not meet admission requirements?
  • Do you accept transfer credits? Is there a limit?


  • What is the average class size of introductory classes?
  • What is the average class size of upper-level classes?
  • What is the largest class on campus? What is the smallest?
  • What are the most popular majors?
  • What types of internships are available?
  • Are there study abroad opportunities available?
  • How do you assign faculty advisors to students, especially those who are not sure about
    their major?
  • What is the student to faculty ratio?
  • What opportunities are there for undergraduate research and funding?
  • How many students participate in undergraduate research?
  • Do you have an Honors College? Is there a separate application for it?
  • Do you have a learning community, learning dorm, or other freshman experiences that I
    should be aware of?
  • What type of tutoring programs do you have?
  • What additional academic services are offered to students (career counseling, mock
    interviews, study skills workshops, etc.)?
  • Do you have a writing center on campus?
  • What is your four-year graduation rate? What does it take to graduate in four years?
  • What percentage of your freshmen return their sophomore year?
    Financial Aid & Scholarships:
  • When is the priority deadline for financial aid applications?
  • What kind of financial aid is available?
  • What percentage of your students receive financial aid from the university?
  • What types of scholarships are available to freshmen?
  • What is your average financial aid package?
  • What work-study opportunities are there?

Campus Life:

  • What percentage of your students live on campus?
  • What kind of dorm choices are there?
  • What percentage of the study body belong to a sorority or fraternity?
  • What organizations and extra-curricular activities do you have on campus?
  • What events are popular on campus?
  • Is there transportation on and off campus? Is it easy to get to town and/or home?
  • What is the climate during the school year?
  • What is your relationship with the community like?
  • What do students do in their free time?
  • How are roommates selected?
  • How does the meal plan work?

Current Students:

  • Why did you decide to attend this college?
  • What was your freshman experience like?
  • Do you feel there is a strong support / transition program for freshmen students?
  • What is your favorite thing about this college? Least favorite?
  • Where is your favorite study place on campus?
  • Where is your favorite place to eat on campus? Off campus?
  • What are you studying here? How did you choose your major?
  • If you could change one thing about this college, what would it be?
  • What sort of campus events does the college host?
  • Do you have advice for an incoming freshman?
  • How approachable are the staff/faculty/administration?
  • How would you describe the community and atmosphere?
  • What clubs or extracurricular activities do you recommend?
  • Did anything surprise you when you became a student?
  • Who is your favorite professor or what is your favorite class you have taken?
If a student is interested in attending a college where they are waitlisted, it is important to stay in contact with that university. Send the Admissions Counselor assigned to Colorado updated materials such as:
– Improved GPA/Grades or a Midyear Report
– Awards or Achievements since sending the original application
– An updated resume if you have several updates
– Additional Letters of Recommendation – particularly from teachers or individuals in your field that can speak to why that University should admit you/why you are an excellent candidate
– Any other information that might be helpful for the Admissions Officer when reconsidering you for admission
Letter of Continued Interest: It is imperative that waitlisted or deferred students contact their Admissions Counselor with a letter of continued interest. Here are some helpful templates and links regarding this process:

Gap Year” is a year or semester that students take off typically before enrolling in college. It doesn’t have to be time hanging out at home — “gappers” often work to save money, volunteer, intern, or perhaps study a language abroad.

Most students elect this time off because they don’t feel prepared for college or they’re looking for more life experience first. According to Jason Sarouhan, a counselor at Center for Interim Programs, a gap year consulting organization, gap years enable young people to gain more independence and self-empowerment. “The time between high school and college offers the natural opportunity to take a break and to recalibrate one’s focus and centeredness,” he says, adding that young people can benefit from structured time away from school or work.

Check out this article on whether you should take a Gap Year or not.