I agree with you that it can be a very good idea to take a gap year. When I was considering college, my parents very much discouraged me from taking a year off so I did not. Looking back, I now think that was a mistake -- taking a gap year would have have helped me understand what I wanted from college and what mattered to me personally.
As a very clear example, I have been a Software Engineer for 20+ years and absolutely love what I do. It is an ideal career for me...but I didn't realize that until I was well out of college because I didn't know how to ask the right questions. While in school, I wasn't able to take advantage of all the resources available to me because I didn't understand who I was yet. A year off could have helped me tremendously and supported me in making better choices.
So I encourage you to find your own path through and do what is right for you. Although I am not an authority on college admissions, it is my opinion that a gap year - used wisely -- can actually improve your chances of admission since you will know more clearly what you want and who you are.
I expect that if you have the SAT scores you should be able to get in. Do you think it might be difficult getting your study habits back or adjusting to a rigorous college schedule after being off for a year? Or maybe the one year turns into two years or more. My advice is to graduate High School and go right to college and then take the year off after college. Who knows what will happen when you go to college, you might find a subject or major that you really enjoy and it becomes your career. Or you may experience opportunities that you never imagined existed. Ever think about working in South America or working for Google or Apple maybe not but then again possible college opens up these possibilities for you to explore. Or maybe your next best friend is at the college you want to attend and she is from France or California, someplace you would normally not think about meeting someone who lived so far away. And you travel to France with your best friend for Spring Break, who would of thought this possible.
Yes, many adults look down on taking a leap year but that is because they just don't know how to articulate the eye opening possibilities of college. It's not High School and the teachers are not like your High School teachers. It can be one of the most positive experiences of your life. You will have a lot of freedom to do whatever your choose and you will not only make a lot of new friends but also friends with teachers. Waiting a year to go to college is like sitting on the side of a pool in 100 degree weather and saying that you will wait until tomorrow to jump in when you know it would be great to jump in today. Go for it and jump right in to College, you will have a blast.
A gap year can be a very valuable to broaden your experience, especially if you do not have a fixed idea of what you want to study or follow as a career. You can gain work experience or travel or other activities. You can sometimes apply for a college/university place and then defer, or delay your start date, for a year. This isn't available everywhere so check if you preferred college will let you do that. Colleges may find your additional experience interesting and it may open new opportunities for you.
Lucy recommends the following next steps:
I don't think there is anything wrong with taking a year off before you head to college. Deciding "what you want to be when you grow up" is a hard thing to do when you are 18 years old. I would just make sure that you use that year wisely. Maybe that is working so you have some extra cash to help with college expenses or making some professional connections in different fields that interest you and see if these connections can help you with making those career decisions before you start taking the applicable courses.