As the end of the semester rapidly approaches for most universities and colleges, seniors are starting to gear up for what lies ahead. They’re stressing out about finals and worrying about whether or not they’ll get to walk across the graduation stage in April. But what happens after they graduate? Most college students believe they are expected to enter the world with their degree, diving straight into a career, an internship or something else. Even though the concept is hastily considered or ignored altogether, taking a gap year is an acceptable option, too.
Many students may fear the gap year, asking questions such as, “What if I lose my motivation to return to school or start a career?” Losing motivation while you have it can be a scary thing and can direct the trajectory of your adult life after school. While losing focus may be possible, sources say that most students come back from a gap year even more motivated than they were when they began it.
When considering a gap year, what should you look out for? First, you must consider why the gap year is appealing. Do you need a break from academia? Is the thought of starting a career straight out of college ominous? Students should consider how taking a gap year will either benefit or derail their future. If, after careful consideration, the gap year seems like a suitable option, students should weigh the facts with the planned trajectory they’ve created.
According to EducationWeek, a Barnard freshman by the name of Aliza Goldberg explained why she decided to take a gap year in Vietnam. According to Goldberg, she took a gap year before college because she felt she was not yet ready for university and needed to figure out what she wanted to do. Goldberg returned from Vietnam with newfound interests and expressed her desire to broaden her academic horizons. “I want to major in everything. The majority of my schedule was influenced by my gap year. I’m excited to see how they all meld together when I [finally] declare my major.”
Information provided by the Gap Year Association (GYA) shows that there is an increased number of college students applying for their programs. Students are slowly embracing it as a popular option, often because it provides some space between school and the professional world or even between years of school. The GYA offers gap year “experiences,” that give students plenty of options should they choose this path. While showcasing its own opportunities, the GYA also acts as a hub for other gap year programs to post their listings. That way, most students can find a program they deeply enjoy. Other notable gap year programs include the EF Tours Gap Year program, the Outward Bound Program and the GoOverseas program.
The EF program offers three paths: the Short Term Program (4-6 weeks), the Semester Program (10-11 weeks) and the year-long program (25 weeks). The Short Term and the Semester programs have separate trips to choose from, while the year-long program has only one option and runs from September – May.
Outward Bound (OB) offers a different approach. Rather than venturing into another country, this program offers several options for outdoor activities ranging from short-term to semester-long, including backpacking, skiing and canoeing. While serving those interested in a gap year, it also cater to grieving teens, veterans and adults. OB says in its mission statement, “Our mission is predicated on the belief that values are experienced concretely rather than taught abstractly; that when the makeup of a crew crosses racial, economic or religious lines differences are celebrated, appreciated and valued.” They are committed to helping students; they even give them access to scholarships and financial aid to set them up for future success
GoOverseas (GO) takes a unique approach; not only can students go abroad, but they can do it virtually. GO takes the gap year and brings it to the student from the comfort of their own home. While there is no set timeline for these virtual trips, GO suggests preparing for at least 15 hours a week, ranging from four weeks to 10 months. GO also has options to study abroad (both at a high school and a university level), teach abroad (TEFL courses are also offered), volunteer abroad and intern abroad.
Students can find more information about all three of these programs by visiting the websites directly. A student’s advisors and school administrators can also answer more questions about studying abroad or taking a gap year if needed.
There are many options available for students who wish to take a gap year. And while it may not be something that not all students consider, they should give the option a little thought before tossing it aside in favor of the “traditional” route.
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