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The Flip Side

Popularity of Post-Grad Year on the Rise

Traditionally, athletes were the most likely to consider a post-graduate year—an additional year between high school and college. For them, the appeal was and still is another year of growth and training before competing in larger, higher-stakes college arenas. It is also an extra year of being observed by and talking with college recruiters. In recent years, a broader range of students are pursuing this option—and they find that colleges respond favorably to applicants with an additional year of academic experience.

Increasingly, more students are choosing a post-graduate year for academic or social/emotional growth. Post-graduate students, or “PG’s” have maximum flexibility in course selection at the most advanced levels offered in secondary school. Thus they explore AP classes, and stretch themselves with intriguing electives that they couldn’t fit into their previous schedule. Both athletes and non-athletes find that this experience enhances grade point averages, improves standardized test scores, and builds foundational study habits.

Most post-graduate years are completed at boarding schools. Thus, for those coming from day schools, being a PG brings the chance to live away from home, developing independence and self-discipline in settings that are more structured than college. For boarding school graduates, being a PG offers exposure to another academic community, with another year to practice building relationships with mentors and further develop social and emotional skills. 

The adolescent years, which research shows continue into the early 20’s, are all about self-exploration and identity-building. Being a PG is an opportunity to apply the lessons of the previous twelve years of schooling to forging an identity at a new school. Young adults are constantly defining and redefining themselves as they go through college and enter the work force. A PG year builds maturity by allowing them more practice with this skill at a unique, transitional moment in their lives and in educational environments that are designed to nurture this process. 

Colleges appreciate students who take an extra year to grow. They value the curricular boost on a PG’s academic transcript, plus the additional year of life experience and the strengthened confidence that PG’s bring to campus. Some studies have shown that students who take an extra year before starting college enjoy more academic success and are more likely to graduate in four years.

A post-graduate year is a distinct subset of what is often called a “gap year.” Students planning a nonacademic experience for the year after high school graduation complete the college application process and then defer enrollment for a year.  Conversely, PG’s apply to colleges alongside the new graduating class that they have joined. 

Some seniors know already that they want to seek a post-graduate year. Others will begin the college application process this fall and then decide that another year of high school would expand their options. Ideally, candidates should decide by early fall because PG’s participate in the same admission cycles as other students. The post-graduate year is another example of the many, varied paths that an educational journey can take, and that at The Bertram Group we are glad to help families explore. 

Holly McGlennon Treat specializes in helping families interested in independent junior and secondary boarding schools. She can be reached at