Impressive Ways To Spend a Gap Year

After 12 years or more of formal schooling, not everyone is ready to jump into a college classroom. The idea of taking a gap year is becoming more popular with young adults. A gap year is defined as an academic year of learning through experiences and postponing higher education for a few months. A gap year is not meant to be two semesters of sitting on the couch in your parents' basement playing video games. It is a time of intentional work, travel or volunteering designed to broaden your perspective and enrich your life experience. After a gap year, you are ready to take your newly acquired wisdom into the college classroom and apply your skills.

Reasons for Taking a Gap Year

If you're on the fence about postponing college to do something different, you may be asking yourself: "If I'm going to college anyway, then why take a gap year? I can work or travel later." Once you graduate college, though, life gets in the way. You'll begin a career, find a more permanent place to live, start a family, buy a car — the list goes on. It may be best to seize the opportunity before lots of responsibilities take over.

Care for Children Abroad

Being an au pair is an excellent way to immerse yourself in another culture. An au pair is a young person (typically between the ages of 18-30) who lives with a host family, caring for the children in exchange for room and board plus a stipend. As an au pair, you will likely form a bond with your host family, becoming a trusted caregiver and honorary family member. You can share your knowledge of the English language and American culture with the children you tend to while learning the customs and language of your host family. If you'd like to travel abroad but don't have the money to spend on room and board for a year, you can consider being an au pair.

Take an Internship

How can you get an in-depth look into a career that interests you before you get a degree? An internship program offers you the chance to do so. Internships get you in the door of a company in your chosen industry where you have the opportunity to see the ins and outs of the jobs that interest you. You gain the chance to see what really goes on, and your internship experience can solidify your career decision or prevent you from wasting time. An internship can help you develop professional skills that carry over into your future career — no matter where you work. You can also build a foundation of real-life knowledge beyond the theories you read in college textbooks. Interning helps you build a network of professionals in your chosen field. When you apply for jobs after graduation, people in your network can help you write a résumé, serve as references on an application or introduce you to potential employers. You may even find your internship leads to a career at the same company.

Volunteer Your Time

It's hard to beat the satisfaction that comes from dedicating time and resources to a cause you believe in. If you are passionate about something, you can consider spending your gap year contributing to it. There are many programs available to people who want to serve the greater good during a gap year. You can travel abroad and dedicate your time working in education, conservation, sports coaching, community development or building. Would you like to rehabilitate elephants in Thailand, teach English to children in South America or work in construction in Fiji? There's a volunteer program for that. Some overseas programs provide training, food and lodging and medical insurance. You don't have to leave the country, though, to spend a gap year volunteering. Americorps is a volunteer program through the U.S. government that matches you with a community service project that fits your skills and time frame. You can also receive a modest allowance to cover the cost of living. People who complete a term of service can receive an Education Award to help with college expenses.

Find a Job

College can be expensive — just ask anyone who's working to pay off a student loan. If you want to save some money before diving into tuition payments, consider taking a year to work. No matter where you find employment, on-the-job experience offers you a chance to develop skills you can't learn in the classroom. After twelve months of full-time employment, you can enter the classroom a year older, wiser and more wealthy.

Whether you're trying to decide where to attend college, aren't sure of your career path or just need a break, taking a gap year is an excellent way to spend time developing life skills before starting a higher education program.