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I was an excellent student in high school, but due to life circumstances after I graduated, I couldn't complete my college summer semester. So I had to withdraw. And in the Fall semester, I know it wasn't necessarily the loveliest decision but I also withdrew from three classes because I wasn't personally satisfied with the marks I was going to get. I had higher standards for myself, I went from being an 'A' student to 'D+'.

I had done practically nothing between late 2022 and until now... I've learned a bit of foreign language and worked on my computer science skills but it is frankly not at all the pace that I would've made in high school and not at all the pace I would've made with the time that I had.

How do I explain a wasted year? It feels so overwhelming to look at and demoralizing because I feel so... 'less' for it.

Now I'm trying to reverse my own mistakes by doing what I can now. I'm studying like it's my job, I'm going to look into volunteering, internships and capitalizing on scholarships soon enough but I'm not sure what I'll be saying about this gap to my interviewers. And yes I'm going to treat all of this from a way different approach, I know with a passion I'm not going to lose another semester again or waste any more time so I have confidence in myself--that is why I did voluntarily withdraw.

I know it maybe won't matter, the gap that happened after high school graduation, once I am halfway there on my associate's degree in foreign language and especially once I'm studying at a senior college in computer-science but I kinda need validation and guidance.

I have so much guilt and shame over this (something I did) that I don't know how I can look at my interviewer in the eye and say I'm worthy of x and y opportunity over other people.

Would people even care or?

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    To whom are you worried about explaining the gap year? Are you re-applying for colleges, applying for summer internships, or worried how you will explain this years down the road when you apply for full-time jobs?
    – InBedded16
    Jan 10 at 18:16
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    Get in, do well in college, and nobody will every care. Plus everything has been screwy because of Covid anyway.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 10 at 18:20
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    Gap years while people decide what direction they want to go are not at all uncommon. If your grades were good after coming back, nobody is likely to be bothered by it. Admittedly biased citation to an oldish book on the topic: Stopping Out, by Judi K-Turkel.
    – keshlam
    Jan 10 at 20:44
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    The guilt and shame are not something that can be handled on an online forum. That is something that has to be handled face to face. Go out and talk to people about how you feel and get their feedback and experience the acceptance that you are missing.
    – David R
    Jan 11 at 15:19
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    You are not alone. I know it feels like the end of the world right now. It is not. I've been where you are. You can do this. As to the interviewer... I would rather hire someone who crashed and burned and then turned around then someone who has a 4.0. Because the ability stand up after falling down is far more valuable then a perfect grades.... Also I cannot tell you how many 4.0s I have interviewed who didn't know anything, about anything.
    – Questor
    Jan 11 at 17:14

3 Answers 3

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You shouldn't be getting downvoted for this very relevant question.

Employment or education gaps are quite common.

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager.

What would you be looking for in a candidate? A perfect, unblemished resume from the moment of birth up to today? Or would you be understanding of the reality of the human experience?

Drawing clues from the context you provided, it looks like you are still pursuing a degree. It's normal at the end of the degree program to only list the year graduated.

The standard notation is "BS. Engineering, University of State, 2025".

Now you tell us; where is the gap in that education history?

If you absolutely must draw attention to time away from work or school, make it clear what you were doing during that time.

"I needed to take some time off school to reevaluate my priorities. I spent the summer working at McDonald's and taking care of my siblings. After 4 months of hard work, I decided I wanted to prove to myself that I could go back and finish school."

Everyone loves a "come back" story, so this isn't even a bad thing at all.

Forgive yourself for you are young and have your whole life in front of you!

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After my degree I spend a year without a job. I moved to a city in a different country, hoped I would get a job there, but it turned out to be more difficult and I didn't really have the drive to make it happen.

On my CV I put it as a gap year, and basically describe it as "pursuing different projects". Usually it didn't come up in interviews and when it came, I just described the most interesting things I did in this year, and that usually was a satisfying answer. Just be upfront about it and have a good story about what you did, doing programming projects and learning a language. It is unlikely that they will ask you for much more details or how successful you actually were.

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If you are worried about explaining a gap year during schooling to an employer once you graduate - you won't need to, no one cares to go into it at that depth.

All they are going to see is "Bachelor of Arts in Comp Sci (or whatever), Graduating University, Year." The result is what matters. No one wants or needs a semester by semester breakdown (they may ask for it on some form that will be used to validate education as a background check but no one that matters looks at that).

At most they'll do math between your high school graduation and college graduation dates and ask in an interview "looks like it took you X (5, 6...) years to get your degree, tell me about why" and you say "I took a gap year to decide that the love of my life is whatever this specific job is." But frankly, mixed educational careers (multiple schools, gaps, etc.) is increasingly common and not worth mention.

If you are concerned about how this looks applying to jobs or internships during your schooling, then IF they are related to your major they may have a little more curiosity in terms of what courses you've taken when and how you did in them, to assess if you're ready for whatever computer work they need done. But again, it's about where you are right now, not how you got there.

You're definitely overthinking it and over-worrying about it. Don't be so hard on yourself - first, that is unpleasant, but second, it turns into lack of confidence that will come across and degrade your effectiveness in the actual job.

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