Gap Year Programs: The Private School Postgraduate Year

PG year can boost academic, social, athletic skills

Not all high school graduates go straight to college. Instead, some students opt to take a gap year. There are many gap year options, including traveling, volunteering, working, interning, or pursuing a passion for art. Another option is engaging in further educational opportunities—which may include some of these options—through a private school postgraduate year.

Many private schools offer specialized gap-year programs—also called a postgraduate year—a yearlong academic curriculum designed for students who have already graduated from high school and hold a high school diploma. Traditionally, postgraduate programs have been targeted to male students; however, the number of female students enrolling has been on the rise. 

Benefits of a Postgraduate Year

While there are many educational gap year programs available to students, one of them includes enrolling at a private school as a postgraduate student, otherwise known as a PG. More than 1,400 students enroll in PG programs at boarding schools every year because they provide many benefits, including:

  • An academic boost: PG programs can help students who were not accepted into their colleges of choice, need to add a few more credits to their transcript​ or are looking to get accepted into more competitive colleges. 
  • Athletic opportunities: A postgraduate year gives young athletes a chance to increase their visibility, work with some of the top high school coaches, and train in state-of-the-art facilities. Many top boarding schools have strong connections with college coaches and recruiters, and the notoriety of these programs can help student-athletes get noticed by colleges that might never otherwise even heard of them.
  • Foreign language training: Some of the best boarding schools in the U.S. offer programs for English language learners, students looking to improve their mastery of the English language to study at American universities. Students looking to study in a foreign country for college can benefit from PG programs at international schools.
  • Preparation for College LifeThe boarding school environment is like a preview of college life, but with more structure and guidance. This helps students adjust to dorm life, improving their organizational skills and time management, and developing a strong balance of school, activities, sports, and social life. 

Effect of a Postgraduate Year on College Admissions

While parents are often afraid that students who defer going to college for a year are fated never to attend, colleges themselves prefer to accept students after a gap year, including a year spent in a private PG program. Those who spend a year working to improve their academics in an environment of "structured independence" usually are more prepared and mature as college students, says Kristin White and Robert Kennedy, writing on the website Boarding School Review. They add:

"College admissions officers recognize that the PG year offers many benefits to a student and will ultimately make him not only a better candidate for admission​ but a better student once he is on campus. Every year, PG graduates are accepted at schools ranging from Ivy League universities to supportive liberal arts schools and everything in between."​

If a student has his heart set on getting into a certain college, he may be better off entering a PG program and delaying college for a year in the hopes that his application might be more favorably received. Most private school PG programs even offer experienced college counselors to help with the admission process and can guide students as they transition to college.

Below are some of the nation's top PG-year programs.

Avon Old Farms School

Avon Old Farms campus

Avon Old Farms enrolls 15 to 20 PG students annually, and these students are considered members of the senior class. The academic dean works to create schedules for each PG to best enhance his academic profile. Acceptance into the PG program is limited, and due to the high level of competition, accepted students have high expectations placed on them.

They are expected to participate in leadership roles in the classroom, on athletic fields, and in the dorms. They work closely with the college counseling office throughout the year; some may even begin their work with the office in the summer prior to school starting.

  • Located in Avon, Conn.
  • Founded in 1927
  • Grades nine to 12 and PG
  • Single-Sex School: All boys

Bridgton Academy

Bridgton Academy sign
Bridgton Academy

Bridgton Academy provides a program designed specifically for postgraduate students, preparing young men for the rigors of college and beyond. The school offers a strong academic program, including a College Articulation Program and college counseling, as well as humanities and STEM programs.

  • Located in North Bridgton, Maine
  • Founded in 1808
  • Grades: Postgraduate
  • Single-sex school: All boys

Cheshire Academy

Overhead view of the Cheshire Academy campus
Cheshire Academy

PG students at Cheshire Academy range from talented athletes who need another year of exposure to artists and students who need extra time to improve their transcripts. The academy believes that coursework for PG students should be meaningful and include advanced work that furthers the student's academy profile.

The coursework meets the requirements for Division I sports programs and college academic entrance. It includes the PG seminar, a specialized program of study required for all PG students, including SAT prep, college application assistance, public speaking, finance, and economics. The art major program is ideal for creative students looking to attend some of the top art schools in the country.

  • Located in Cheshire, Conn.
  • Founded in 1794
  • Grades nine to 12 and PG
  • Coeducational

Deerfield Academy

Deerfield Academy Building
ImageMuseum / SmugMug

Deerfield accepts about 25 postgraduate students annually. They are considered part of the senior class—about 195 students—and are eligible to participate in all school programs. PGs are a vital part of the Deerfield community, as they strengthen school spirit, provide strong leadership, and often serve as mentors to other Deerfield students.

  • Located in Deerfield, Mass.
  • Founded in 1797
  • Grades nine to 12 and PG
  • Coeducational

Fork Union Military Academy

Fork Union Military Academy Entrance

Fork Union Military Academy has earned a national reputation in athletics, annually sending up to 60 athletes from their high school and postgraduate teams to NCAA Division I college programs on athletic scholarships.

The academy is one of the top schools in the country for aspiring athletes, especially for football and basketball. These teams compete separately from the underclassmen and have produced athletes with a resume of success, including a dozen NFL first-round draft picks. PG graduates aren't limited to football and basketball success. Fork Union Military Academy also produces top athletes in track, swimming and diving, lacrosse, wrestling, golf, and soccer.

  • Located in Fork Union, Va.
  • Founded in 1898
  • Grades seven to 12 and PG
  • Single-sex school: All boys

Interlochen Arts Academy

Interlochen Campus

The postgraduate year at Interlochen is intended for students who aim to focus on greater artistic preparation before entering college, conservatory, university, or art school.

PG students are required to enroll in at least one academic class each semester, while the rest of their course selections may be classes which relate to their majors. They may also take courses in other art disciplines or additional academic classes to enhance their high school transcripts. Upon completion of the yearlong program, students receive a certificate of attendance from the academy.

  • Located in Interlochen, Mich.
  • Founded in 1962
  • Grades nine to 12 and PG
  • Coeducational

Northfield Mount Hermon

Northfield Mount Hermon campus

NMH's PG program is supported by an adviser and class academic dean who help students meet their goals. College counseling for PG students begins on the first day they arrive on campus, with meetings between the counselors and families.

  • Located in Mount Hermon, Mass.
  • Founded in 1879 
  • Grades nine to 12 and PG
  • Coeducational

Phillips Academy Andover

Phillips Andover Academy Building
Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

PG students at Andover are those in search of an extra, transitional year before heading off to a highly selective college or university. Qualified applicants will be fully engaged, honors-level students taking challenging courses.

The admission committee looks carefully for academic growth and is interested only in students who are academically motivated and seeking a challenging year.

  • Located in Andover, Mass.
  • Founded in 1778
  • Grades 9 to 12 and PG
  • Coeducational

Wilbraham & Monson Academy

Wilbraham & Monson Academy Building
Wilbraham & Monson Academy

PGs at WMA are part of a diverse and rigorous college-prep environment where each student can seek individual attention from the faculty. They participate in competitive athletics and other activities to further develop and hone talents and skills that they can carry into their college careers.

The college counseling office works with PG students to help select and apply to colleges and universities that best suit their individual talents, interests, and goals.

  • Located in Wilbraham, Mass.
  • Founded in 1804
  • Grades six to 12 and PG
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Jagodowski, Stacy. "Gap Year Programs: The Private School Postgraduate Year." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Jagodowski, Stacy. (2021, February 16). Gap Year Programs: The Private School Postgraduate Year. Retrieved from Jagodowski, Stacy. "Gap Year Programs: The Private School Postgraduate Year." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).