How To Plan A Gap Year

You’ve graduated from high school! Congratulations! This is an exciting time as you complete the goal you’ve been working toward for the past four years. But for some young adults, there’s a new question they’re facing: “Now what”. After graduation there are many options like higher education, joining the workforce, or attending trade school. But with so many choices, it can be hard to choose what you feel like your life path should be at 17 or 18 years old. It can feel like a lot of pressure, especially when you don’t have a lot of life experiences to pull from to help you decide what your next step should be. 

Why Take a Gap Year

A gap year can be a helpful tool in gaining life experiences and building personal and professional skills. A gap year provides experiential learning opportunities that can deepen your practical, professional, and personal awareness. Taking a gap year may seem counterintuitive to working towards your life goals, but studies have shown that 90% of students who take time off after high school enroll in a four-year institution within one year of completing their gap year break. A gap year can help you see the world, and yourself, in a different way. You may think that you’re interested in a career in marketing, but taking a gap year to experience some work in marketing could help you realize that you don’t actually enjoy the data entry and tracking of marketing. Rather, you discover that you enjoy the photography side of marketing that creates images that connect with consumers. 

Tips for Planning Your Year

If you have decided to take a gap year, the next step is deciding how to best spend this time:

  1. Make a list of goals for this year. Think about what you would like to achieve this year. Is it building some professional experience? Or volunteering with organizations that spark your interests? Or traveling in the hopes of understanding more about the world around you? Whatever your goals, write them down so that you can decide where you want to place your focus in the next year. 
  2. Research your options. Once you’ve decided what your goals and focus will be, research all your options to make the best use of your time. If you enjoy writing, you could spend the year traveling and journaling, or you could spend the year attending classes and workshops to develop your skills. There are many paths toward the same goal, so find the one that best suits you. 
  3. Think about logistics. For some, this may be the least fun part of planning a gap year. If you’ve decided to travel, it’s much more exciting to think about far off destinations rather than vaccines, exchange rates, and transportation issues. But these logistics are an important part of planning an impactful and successful gap year. You may need to think about things such as a passport, language lessons, lodging, and a budget for food. These are the things we tend to take for granted in our day to day life, but for a gap year, planning these logistics can make or break your experience. 
  4. Be flexible. Having a plan is important, but it is equally as important to be flexible when things don’t go according to plan. Maybe your goal was to intern with a veterinary clinic to learn about animal health and care, but you are unable to find a clinic that is taking on interns. Instead of becoming frustrated and giving up on your goal, look at volunteering at a local animal shelter. You will still learn about the care of animals, but just in a different setting. 

Foundations Asheville Can Help

Many of the students who come to Foundations are struggling with anxiety, depression, executive functioning, and experiencing challenging family dynamics.

We support our students by helping them work toward success in college, success in the workforce, success in relationships, and authentic social engagement. We also help them to manage finances responsibly, learn functional living skills, and grow into independent young adults. For more information please call (877) 318-7273.

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