Whether you have just finished up high school, earned your bachelor’s degree, find yourself between jobs, or have time on your hands for another reason, a gap year may be a great way to recharge before you dive into your next challenge.
No longer regarded as a sure way to end up wasting a year slacking off, the concept of the gap year has grown in popularity, so much so that many parents and guidance counselors even encourage it. A well executed gap year can help you find out a lot about yourself and take you a lot farther than you ever imagined. Of course, there’s a lot more to having a successful gap year than just postponing your college enrollment or a new job. Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
What To Do?
Before you can figure out the “how’s” surrounding your gap year, you need to know what you’re going to do. In all likelihood, you want this year away from school or work to be as worthwhile as possible, but don’t make it all about being productive. Take time to explore your options and choose an activity that really gets you excited.
Some of the more common gap year opportunities include volunteering abroad, taking up environmental causes, teaching, studying the arts, language immersion and adventure travel. Find out what a typical day looks like in your chosen gap year activity before you commit, so you can feel confident that you’ll follow through.
Balancing Pros And Cons
Every gap year includes both pros and cons, and you’ll have to decide if the sacrifices you are making are worth it. In many cases, a gap year can change your life by showing you a world you never knew existed. You will meet new people who share your passions, and you may even decide on a new life path based on your experiences.
Of course, you will also be starting college a year later than your high school friends, you’ll graduate a year later, and you will be entering the workforce later. Some people fear losing the academic momentum they’ve built up through high school by having a gap year, but if you can regain your focus once your year is up, the experiences you’ll have will last a lifetime.
Planned vs. Unplanned
There is a big difference between finding a specific gap year program and just “taking a year off.” Depending on what you want to get from your gap year, and whether you do better in an organized setting vs. a more relaxed setting will help guide you in this regard. It’s a good idea to be honest with yourself when deciding if you should plan your gap year carefully or go with the flow. If you’re not a self-starter, then you’ll get the most out of your year with a planned program.
Finding Appropriate Financing
Perhaps the biggest challenge for most gap year participants is financing. The whole point is to find something rewarding and exciting to occupy your year, and holding down a regular job isn’t usually in the cards. Once your plan has been created and you know exactly how much you’ll need, you have a few different financing options.
Some of the most popular include:
- Fundraising online (Go Fund Me, Indiegogo, and, of course, Volunteer Forever’s free crowdfunding platform))
- Borrowing money from family
- Saving up money from your part time job during school
- Cutting out extras to save as much as possible
- Using severance if between jobs
- School-sponsored programs
- Financial aid for different volunteer programs
From volunteering and teaching English to interning and working abroad, you have countless opportunities for your gap year. Here’s a detailed list of organizations that specialize in gap year programs.