More students than ever before are taking gap years – and for good reason.
It’s important to take time to explore your interests, develop skills and develop real world experience before you set out on your life path. It’s about taking advantage of your youth and setting yourself up for success. In fact, research from the American Gap Association shows that, among other benefits, students who complete a gap year before going on to university are more likely complete their degrees than their peers and go on to report higher job satisfaction in their careers.
So the question you need to ask yourself is not, “should I take a gap year,” but “which kind of gap year is best for me?” A year of travelling is the obvious option, but have you thought of hybrid programs like UnCollege Gap Year that combine travel, work experience and skill-building?
Personal and Professional Growth Programs
Cultural literacy and mastering a second language are essential skills in our modern world, but language acquisition alone won’t you discern what to do with your life. Personal and professional accelerators are about focusing on yourself and building the skills you need to succeed on a professional level, while still encouraging you to explore the world and experience new things. There are plenty of options to choose from, including the UnCollege Gap Year Program. So how do you know what you should look for in a program?
Real world professional experience.
If you aren’t going to take a year to travel the world with your trusty backpack, you should spend at least a few months gaining real world experience. We’re not talking about serving up cones at your local ice cream shop or babysitting for the neighbors – we’re talking about internships for companies that can expand your potential as a professional. Don’t settle for anything less.
What to do: Seek out a program that can help you find an internship that develops a skill you’re interested in and will be a gold star on your resume.
A supportive, residential or immersive experience.
You can learn a lot about yourself when you live in something – whatever it is – 24/7. Similar to an immersive language experience, look for a program that will force you to think about improving every day.
What to do: Find out which programs value peer-to-peer learning and residential experiences. If you find these qualities in a program, they will most likely offer a great immersive program.
Quality mentoring and networking.
If you’re going to take the time to develop professionally, make sure you have the opportunity to learn from some experienced and remarkable people.
What to do: Find a program that can not only coach you, but set you up working with people that will help you develop skills and forever bolster your professional network.
Freedom to explore.
Some professional accelerators are entirely too rigid. You are young and you should have the freedom to explore.
What to do: Find a program that both pushes you to explore your innate curiosities and give you the space to do so. As a teenager, it’s okay to not know what you want to do. On the other hand, it is not okay to sit back and not explore what the world has to offer – and that goes for careers as well.
21st Century skills.
This one is simple – make sure the program you choose teaches skills that will be useful in the modern world. (To see a few examples of 21st century skills in action, check out this list.)
What to do: Also simple – research programs that teach 21st century skills.
Did you like this post on gap year options for young people? For more gap year information, visit UnCollege’s resources page.