School has its perks. It also insulates you from real-world experiences. You gain insights from a small circle of people in a familiar and comfortable setting, and learn from books and guided practical experiences. When it is time for college, you burn the midnight oil to prepare for numerous tests and in putting together your applications. Somewhere along the way, you may lose sight of who you are and what you want. Or perhaps, it is too early to tell.
That is where the gap year steps in. It is almost like taking a step back from life as you’ve known it so far to gain perspective and experience that’ll give you a clearer picture of where you stand and what you should plan to do. You may have grown up with an interest in biology and may chance upon a theater group during a gap year that could lead you to get involved in theater and pursue courses related to that.
A gap year disrupts the cycle of school-college-work-family and all that you have known and learned through your school years. More young people in America are taking a breather during the transit between school and college, not just Malia Obama.
A gap year is not simply about juggling a job and taking time out to relax. It is refreshing; when you get back to college you feel more enthusiastic and have better focus instead of feeling burned out, even if you don’t have any life-changing epiphanies.
When planned right and when you are clear about what you want out of it, a gap year can be a rewarding experience. There are many gap year programs that you could consider. These could involve travel, internships, and charity and voluntary work. A few places that have programs for students considering taking a gap year are: Thinking Beyond Borders, AmeriCorps, Outward Bound, Camp Eagle, Latitude Global Volunteering, Dance Gap Year, SOAR, and the Experiment in International Living.
If you decide to take a gap year, speak to your school counselor for guidance – if and when you need to apply for college, and how to make the gap year count in your application. There are many organizations that help you plan your gap year; you can choose that or plan it on your own. Some ways to identify if your gap year is a good one are to consider the learning opportunities and goals. While planning stuff on your own is in itself a good experience, you may want someone older to guide you.
A gap year need not cost you a lot. You don’t have to go overseas; there are plenty of opportunities within the U.S. There are a whole lot of options out there from getting food and board in exchange for voluntary work to getting a stipend for the work.
If you are interested to take a gap year –
- Talk to your school counselor, parents, and people who’ve taken gap years
- Figure out why you want to do it
- Research accredited gap year programs and choose one that’s in line with your goal
- Speak to organizations that specialize in gap year planning if you are uncertain
- Plan your costs
- Keep your expectations realistic
- Go on and do it!