6 Options for Taking a Gap Year

The myOptions Team

It’s often assumed that students will (and should) seamlessly transition from high school to college. After all, it’s a way to taste a little bit of freedom while still being sheltered from the “real world.” Further, it appears to be the most logical and straightforward way to continue your education. However, sometimes students don’t feel ready or prepared for college. There are those who want to take a breather from the pressures of the classroom. And there are others who long to indulge in their wanderlust. Moreover, plenty of students standing on the precipice of their high school graduation feel lost and unsure of what they want to pursue. Rest assured these are all natural and justified sentiments. And, if you count yourself among these ranks, you might want to consider taking a gap year.

Before your parents start to hyperventilate, a gap year in no way means saying sayonara to college forever. Nor does it translate into extending your summer vacation for another twelve months. Instead, it’s an opportunity for personal growth and exploration. It’s a time that will grant you perspective, offer you direction, and allow you the chance to return to school refreshed and with a renewed sense of purpose.

So, while this all sounds well and good, you might be wondering what exactly you should do with a gap year. Having a plan is essential for a successful gap year. To that end, we present a few suggestions:

1. Volunteer.

Through volunteering, you’ll become more familiar with a cause you find important. You will also have the opportunity to gain exposure to a diverse group of people. You’ll learn about issues facing the world, and that might impact your choice in study when you go to college. By giving back, you’re bound to feel a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

2. Travel or live abroad.

There’s no better way to inject a sense of adventure into your life than through traveling or living abroad. Traveling whisks you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to new customs and cultures. It forces you to confront preconceived notions and alters the way you see the world, your hometown, and yourself. You interact with new people and new ideas. You see art and artifacts first hand. Lest we forget - it’s also a fabulous way to sharpen your language skills. When traveling, every day becomes an education.

3. Join the military.

All right, so joining the military is a commitment that will last long beyond the traditional gap year. However, if you’re unsure of your next step(s), it might be a good alternative. By enlisting in the military, you’re likely to gain confidence and strengthen your work ethic. Moreover, your training will expose you to different types of jobs and allow you to develop various skill-sets. Beyond that, you’ll be earning a paycheck and money you can put towards your education. And, of course, you will earn respect, gratitude, and admiration from your family, your peers, and your country.

4. Seek out an internship.

Internships and/or apprenticeships are a phenomenal option for your gap year. They allow you the opportunity to explore an industry and potential career track. You can learn about the different facets that comprise the company and discover the various paths one might take to get there. Additionally, an internship (whether successful or not), could likely inform your choice of a college major. And you’ll have a chance to network, and (hopefully) make contacts you can turn towards in the future.

5. Find a job.

Whether you’re delivering pizzas, sorting mail at an insurance company, or building websites, working a 9-5 job is a great way to spend a gap year. Sure, it might not be the most glamorous or exotic option. However, it’ll give you a glimpse into the working world. You’ll get a better sense of the ways in which companies operate, how to conduct yourself in a professional setting, and create another line for your resume. Of course, you’ll also earn cash you can potentially save for college. Finally, all those hours of toil will likely give you a greater appreciation of the benefits of an education.

There are also tuition reimbursement options if you work for companies such as Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Comcast, Verizon, or UPS! (Just to name a few). The idea is that you would work for them throughout school, and then take a management position when you graduate. You would basically have a company investing in you and your education. When you do decide to go back to school after your gap year working, you will have so much to offer including your knowledge and skill set from the real world.

6. Take a class at the local community college.

We recognize that this might sound contradictory to a gap year. After all, why would you take a break from school only to end up right back inside a classroom? Hear us out. By taking a class or two as a non-degree seeking student, you get to experience what a college course is like without the pressures of being a full-time undergrad. (AKA you don’t have to fret about fulfilling requirements). You can choose a class on a random topic that you’ve always been curious about but never explored. Or you can select a course completely on a whim, one that might lead you down an academic path you never thought possible. Plus, by limiting your course load, you still leave time to pursue one of the other aforementioned options. Lastly, you’ll likely be able to put the credits you earn toward your degree (and save some money in the process).

We recommend still applying to college even if you’re considering taking a gap year. It’s much easier to organize all the paperwork (transcripts, recommendations, etc.) while you’re enrolled in high school. And it’s easier to slog through your applications when you have the support of your parents, guidance counselor, and peers. Plus, you want to enjoy your gap year for all that it’s worth (without the stress of college applications). When you are accepted into college, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment. Just make sure you submit the proper paperwork and requests by the necessary deadlines.

Gap years are really an incredible opportunity to take risks, stretch beyond your comfort zone, and get to know yourself a little better. If you’re feeling unsure or burnt out, think about taking a breather from the classroom. After all, there is no set path in life. Take a chance, deviate a little, and see where the adventure takes you!

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