More and more young people today are participating in what some are calling the “gap-years.” These being a time period either before college, work, or military or between college and work, or graduate school that allows for a break in academic and work effort. There are multiple reasons for wanting to post-pone the future; the trick is finding what’s right for you.
For the Academics:
Academically, there are two ways to go about taking time off, it just depends on your final destination. Say you have already been accepted into college but are unsure whether you want to attend right away. The choice is deferment. Check the college’s specifics, but for most places deferment means that you defer your admission for between a semester and possibly two years. Normally what is required is a letter of intent, stating what you hope to do during the year that their university cannot provide. Most schools accept language/cultural programs, volunteer services, travel, work, and internship opportunities. The important things to be aware of are deadlines, deposits and playing by your university’s rules. The second way to take academics into account is by attending a study abroad program for a year. Maybe you didn’t get into the school of your choice, or maybe you simply weren’t ready, but either way taking a year off for study abroad will give you time to re-organize and re-apply, while still doing something academically productive. While many colleges will not accept you into their programs without college acceptance, there are multiple programs you can apply to without that restriction.
Another academic choice available is to take what is called a post-graduate year. This is for students who want to re-take their senior year to improve gpa.
For the Volunteers:
Volunteering is always a great choice for those who want to go into the work force, college, military, or really anything. The benefits range from leadership skills, to just personal satisfaction. It also really allows young people to gain knowledge about themselves and the world around them. While choosing your program, the most distinguishing factor is how much time you are willing to dedicate.
Peace Corps: This famous program requires 27 months of hard work and could place you anywhere around the world. They offer volunteer opportunities in education, health, business, agriculture, environment, and youth development. The prestige that goes along with this organization has helped multiple “gap-year-ers” become famous members of congress, diplomats, professors etc.
AmeriCorps: Lesser known, AmeriCorps offers three different types of programs: National and state programs, Vista, and the National Civilian Community Corps. The first suggestion, when on their website, allows for a person to pick an interest and a state and from there can pick a specific regional program. Most, if not all, of these programs provide housing, an allowance, and sometimes-even pay. Benefits are that the programs are localized, creating a tight community connection. AmeriCorps Vista is a one-year program dedicated to helping poverty through non-profit and local government agencies. Finally, they offer the NCCC, a program that is run similarly to the Peace Corps, offering work between 9-12 months with placement in many different parts of the country.
For Those Who Want to Work:
Going straight from high school to the working world is no easy choice. Many young people are forced into this position (again choosing deferment) in order to pay for their higher education or training. The best choice for these situations is to find a job close to your living quarters and create a budget. Saving money can be easy as long as you are willing to stick to it. If money is not the issue, start looking for internships and apprenticeships that could benefit you in the future. Mechanics, electricians, plumbing, construction, many hands-on jobs are always looking for people to train. The money might not be great at first, and sometimes may be even nonexistent. Remember that it is for your future, and will eventually be worth it.
For Those Who Want to Play:
The limbo area is time for a break from academics, from work, and really from the real world. What better time is there to go exploring? For young people who are still trying to figure everything out, traveling is the best option. If money is tight, go for a road trip around the U.S. and Canada. There are hundreds of ways of making quick cash and saving a buck or two that will make the trip memorable. Europe is always a good, stereotypical choice, which, besides the plane ticket, is also relatively cheap. Either way, travel is something every career looks at positively. It shows a sense of adventure, of risk, but also the idea of ambition. You could have sat on your butt in small town U.S.A., but instead took the initiative to see the world.