Deciding to Take a Post-College Gap Year
After 16 or more years in school, are you ready for a break? Hopefully, your life up to now has included some travel. But right after college, before moving on to grad school or settling into a long-term job, you have choices. Your lease for your housing is probably ending. Internships wrap up. Perhaps you find yourself with fewer commitments than you have had in years! You might find that your time post-graduation is ideal for an adventure. Some teens and young adults take a gap year between high school and college. But who says you can’t take one after college? Here’s what to consider about a post-college gap year.
Common Misconceptions About a Gap Year
If you’ve considered taking a year off, odds are you’ve heard some advice from naysayers. The most common negative is that it’s just a long vacation, or that it’ll lessen your chances to get into graduate school. While these are all valid concerns, if you play your cards right, a gap year could re-energize your desire to go back to school. It can also provide more experiences that look good on your grad school applications or your resume.
Rebecca Kern, a writer with US News, interviewed Holly Bull, president of the Center for Interim Programs. Bull says, “A gap year is about what happens after school, how you make decisions, how you figure out who you are, where you want to go, and how you need to get there. It’s about the skill set you need to live your life.” You’re about to choose a direction for your post-college life. Don’t you want to be absolutely certain that’s the path you want to take?
Before You Take That Full-Time Job
You may yearn just to take a full-time job to start earning money. You might think you can save for a couple of years, then see the world. However, most people find it incredibly difficult to leave a full-time income. It’s one of the reasons people say that you’re less likely to go back to school after taking a break. That income can feel pretty cushy after living with roommates and eating residence hall food.
Make the Most of Your Post-College Gap Year
If you do take a gap year, use this time wisely. A gap year provides you a mental break. Relax and enjoy it before getting back to the grind. Some people choose to plan their travels day by day, while others wing it. Choose the option that gives you the richest experience, depending on your personality and your resources.
Perhaps most important, meet people! Ask friends for potential connections but also open yourself to conversations with like-minded strangers. Your next boss or potential business partner may be out there just waiting to meet you.
Gap Year Travel
When most people envision a gap year, they think of world travel. While that is certainly not the only way to spend an enriching year, you may not get another chance for extensive travel again until much later in life. If you have the money and you want to travel, go for it! Visit those places that you’ve always dreamed of like Paris or Yellowstone National Park. You will gain life experiences and priceless memories.
One way to travel affordably is through a volunteer program. USA Today lists lots of examples of volunteer opportunities that could potentially take you out of the country like United Nations Volunteers and the Peace Corps. The volunteer work you do for programs like these help make the world a better place and look fantastic on a resume.
Combine Work and Travel
Freelancing can help finance your gap year, whether you travel or not. Many fields allow the flexibility to work anywhere in the world. It also builds skills for grad school or your career. It shows you what it’s like to work in your potential field. It also demonstrates your interest in the field and gives you a competitive edge. On the flipside, you learn what it’s like to work in your field you’ll find out whether or not it’s something you enjoy. If you either volunteer or freelance in is a field you end up disliking, you have just saved yourself wasted months or years in a future job.
There are also many programs that offer paid work specifically for international travelers. Here is one list, from GoAbroad.com, but there are many others. Even working full-time, you can take weekends to see places you could never reach in such a short time otherwise.
Get a Research Internship
When going for your Master’s Degree in any science program or a Doctorate nothing is more important than your thesis or dissertation. Both of these require hours of individual research. Knowing that you have experience in research appeals to graduate programs because they know you are up to the task of long hard hours of research.
If you need to figure out what to do after graduation, consider a gap year. You will learn about yourself and to possibly decide what you truly want to do with your career. Perhaps your experience will affirm your desires, or perhaps it will take you down a completely different path. If you feel like you need a break after years of studying, take it.