Several years ago, the admissions department at Harvard put together a note to prospective students on ways to avoid burnout. The advice provided applies to all students considering applying to selective colleges and I recommend that all students read this note. The note discusses the often excessive actions taken to gain entrance into the “right” college as well as options such as taking a gap year before starting college.
I would urge one caution in reading the note. In discussing the various options that Harvard students take during their gap year, the prospective student may get the impression that they need to do something impressive during their gap year. While many students will travel during this gap year, there are many other options for students who might not be able to afford international travel. Note that some of the students stayed in the US and simply worked at a job that they found interesting during the year. The simple act of working at a regular job can be impressive to the admissions committee of a selective college because so few students work at a real job.