Updated: Jun 21, 2020
This question is asked very often by candidates preparing for CAT. I've come across so many stories which clearly show that situations can be helpless at times and students take a gap for all sorts of genuine reasons. Then why do they fear about the consequences of the gap years?
I talked to two students at IIM Ahmedabad, one of them had a gap of 1 year and the other 2 years. I wanted to understand how they managed to overcome this hurdle.
Gap Years after CAT
The CAT scores of my batch mates, who had a gap year were within the range of 99.4–99.7 percentile, both are male and non-engineers. Their profile is important to set a foreground so that you know which pool of applicants they were competing against.
Both appeared for 7–8 IIM interviews and were asked about their gap year(s) in 50% of them, which means some panelists don’t notice or care to ask about the gap.
Reasons for Gap Years
The student with a 1-year gap told that he was preparing for CAT for which he needed time. He was questioned on why he didn’t opt for a job, to which he replied that he was pursuing an internship and doing a research project instead. He even mentioned that his previous CAT score (first attempt) was considerably low in a particular section for him to put in way more effort than he could have with a job. His first attempt score and the delta between it and the final attempt acted as a proof.
The student with a 2-year gap told that he was involved in his family business for about a year and then was preparing for CAT. He was questioned about the value added by him in the business and was made to show that he really did it. He appeared for CAT only once (final attempt) which also acted in his favor. His reason was questioned until it was established as the truth.
Both of them shared that the panelists didn’t grill them due to the gap year, which is what usually happens in a stress interview. The panelists were genuinely interested in understanding the reason behind the gap.
Gap Years Impact
From both their accounts, I could make sense of the following:
Your reason for taking a gap needs to be authentic and verifiable. If it is indeed true, your knowledge can back it up.
Taking a drop for CAT preparation is justifiable if it is for less than a year and you fared badly in the previous attempt. That delta should be visible.
Compensating for the drop by adding value to your profile with internships, projects, competitions, volunteering, courses, etc. can help you compete against other applicants.
Taking a gap is not looked down upon. So, it shouldn’t affect the tonality of the interviewer or the interviewee in any way.
From their accounts, it didn’t seem that the gap year had any effect on the final outcome. Since I’ve interacted with them, I can tell you that they are really smart. So, you’ll have to prove your worth and I’m sure no interviewer will weigh the gap factor over the value you can add to the batch once you join.
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