What Is A Post-Graduate Year?

By: Heather Johnson

A post-graduate year is a year beyond high school graduation, spent at an independent school. Some students will consider doing an “extra” year of high school in order to better prepare themselves for college in a number of areas. Reasons for pursuing a post-graduate year vary as does the timing of this decision. Some students know early on that they would like to pursue a post-graduate year and don’t go through the college application process at all, while others decide to consider both options. Still others go through the college application process and then realize that they are not pleased with their college options and would like another year to strengthen their candidacy for colleges.

In any of these cases, the post-graduate year is a worthwhile option to consider. This “extra” year allows a student to mature socially and/or academically, provides another year of academic preparedness and time to enhance study skills and time management, perhaps another year to strengthen athletic ability to pursue a sport in college. These are all valid reasons for pursuing a post-graduate year.

Many independent schools offer this option, usually to a group of 10-20 students who are essentially members of the senior class. As post-graduates, these students will have already earned a high school diploma so will be making academic choices that will enhance their profile for college by maybe filling in gaps on their transcript or taking some more advanced courses. Some schools will have one or two required courses for their post-graduates as well.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering a post-graduate year. For instance, while this can be an incredible experience, it is often difficult at first for post-graduate students to still be in high school when many friends have gone off to college. However, keeping the big picture in mind is important; you can be much better prepared than you would have been when it’s time for you to go to college. You may be more attractive as a candidate due to your enhanced profile and demonstrated ability to do more demanding work. Also, it’s important to remember that you are only spending one year at this school so you have to make the most of it. You will no sooner be on campus than you will have to think about the next group of schools to which you will apply. It’s important to get engaged on campus quickly – academically, socially, on athletic teams, and other extra-curriculars, so you feel you are a part of the school.

Also important is this: While your college list may not change considerably from doing a post-graduate year, you will change as a student. That is to say that you may be applying to some of the same schools you would have before, but you will be much better prepared to do the work when you get there.

Heather Johnson is an educational consultant who works with families in both the boarding school and college admissions processes.