The selectivity at the schools where my son applied ranged from 98% to 36% down to only 16% accepted. These figures mean that at some of these colleges, very few kids who apply are actually invited to attend. Homeschool parents should be reassured and encouraged that these schools not only accepted my homeschooled, gap-year son with open arms; they offered him their highest academic scholarships as well.

ACADEMIC AND ROTC SCHOLARSHIPS

So, what kind of scholarships and grants can a gap-year student earn? Are all of the large freshman scholarships the colleges offer open to a student that has taken a year off of school? What about the various ROTC scholarships? Can gap-year students be awarded those as well? Yes, gap-year students are considered to be incoming freshman; therefore, all scholarships available to the traditional first-year applicant are available to gap-year students, too.

Obviously, this fact doesn't guarantee your student will earn the top scholarships available. He or she will have to meet the various requirements set up for these scholarships: test scores, GPA, outside recommendations, essays, etc., depending on the particular scholarship. However, the gap year has no negative effect on the chances for these scholarships.

Actually, students who choose to take a gap year have a distinct advantage over traditional applicants in the areas of both acceptance and scholarships. That advantage is time. While most high school students are applying to their prospective colleges in the late fall and early winter of their senior year, gap-year students will not fill out their college applications until the winter after they graduate from high school. They have another full year to develop their essay writing skills--another twelve months to consider deeply what they want to do with their lives. This added maturity shows up clearly in the college application.

The added time also benefits the gap-year student when it comes to tests. While most high school students must finish taking their ACT, SAT I, and SAT II tests by November or December of their senior year, gap-year students have until the month they graduate to take these tests. That additional six months can prove to be a big plus for some students. Not only do the added months give more time to prepare for the tests or to retake tests for higher scores, but they also allow gap-year students to space out their tests in a more relaxed manner. For instance, most students perform better on the SAT II Subject tests if they can arrange to take only one or two at a time rather than three in one morning.

For those students taking AP (Advanced Placement) exams for dual high school and college credit, the additional time is extremely helpful. AP exams are given across the country only once a year, in May. Therefore, colleges only see the scores from AP exams taken up to May of the junior year. As most schools make their admission decisions by April 1st of the senior year, any AP exams taken in May of the senior year do not count at all towards acceptance and scholarship offers. On the other hand, the gap-year student can take several more AP exams in the last year of high school knowing that those scores will be seen and considered when his or her application is reviewed the following year.

As mentioned, military ROTC scholarships (Reserve Officer Training Corps) are also available to gap-year students. ROTC scholarships are challenging to earn, and they obligate the student to serve as an officer in that particular branch of the military for four years after college graduation. However, these scholarships cover up to full tuition at colleges across the country.

My son applied for and received a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship in addition to the academic scholarships he was offered by various schools. The added time afforded by the gap year allowed my son the opportunity to continue with his local Civil Air Patrol training and leadership, and during that year he earned the Billy Mitchell Milestone Award from the USAF. In addition, after being notified that he had won an AFROTC scholarship, my son was surprised to receive several admission and full scholarship offers from colleges where he had not applied, as well as a complete full-ride scholarship offer from the Army ROTC.