It is scary graduating from school. You have to make major decisions regarding your career and education that you may not entirely be ready for. Maybe, you are scared, unsure, hesitant. That’s alright. It’s normal for you to be scared when making such major decisions. After all, there are so many things to be decided.
Is studying abroad worth it or should you stick to India? Self-financing, scholarships or education loans? Besides, what do you want to do anyway?
You don’t have to have these answers all at once. In fact, a gap year is exactly what you need to find these answers. A gap year can give you the time and insight you need to make the right decisions for your career and for yourself.
But how do you spend a gap year?
Getting to Know Yourself
The most important thing to do in a gap year is to get to know yourself. What kind of a person are you? What kind of a person do you want to be? What kind of a career do you want? These are questions you may not know the answers to while you are still fresh out of school.
Going straight from school to college can be emotionally taxing and cause burnout. It doesn’t give you the space to find out what you really want to do. This is where a gap year can be life-changing. You don’t get dumped from one rat race to the next. Instead, you can take the time to figure out what you want to do.
Your parents could be pressuring you to go for a safe field like engineering. But do you have something else in mind? Perhaps you want to go for something less traditional? A gap year gives you the time to figure these things out. It gives you time to come up with an education plan or a career plan for yourself.
Travel and Explore the World
Travel can change you. It is very likely that up until now you have been a very sheltered child and have never ventured outside your parents’ supervision. Well, you are an adult now, and you should go out and experience the world.
Travelling during your gap year will help you grow and mature as a person. Coming out of school, most people are still children. They have never lived on their own or outside their parents’ care. They haven’t learnt how to take care of themselves or deal with people on their own.
Travelling helps you meet new people and learn new perspectives. But more than that, travelling teaches you how to plan and organise, how to budget, how to save money, whom to trust and how to think on the fly to overcome a sticky situation. These are all important real-world life skills that are required by an adult. Travel helps you learn how to become a well-rounded adult.
Learn a Language or Skill
Schools often put an emphasis on just academics. Good academics are necessary for cracking entrance exams and putting forward a shining CV for foreign universities if you are planning to study abroad. However, academics should not be your only skill. If you have not been able to focus on any extracurricular activity or skill outside of your studies, your gap year may be the perfect opportunity for you.
You could enrol yourself for a music or dance class, or learn a more practical skill like automobile repair. Gap years can give you the time you always wanted but never had to learn a new skill or language. You could even take beginner level online courses in programming languages, data science, artificial intelligence and other such courses. These courses teach you extra skills and pad your CV. They could also introduce you to disciplines and concepts that you can dabble in, before deciding to pursue them seriously in college.
Learning a language is even more advantageous if you have hopes of studying abroad. It can help you mix in and make friends more easily when you move abroad to study in your dream college or university. Even if you have no plans of studying abroad, having command over foreign languages can help beef up your CV and improve your chances of landing a particular job or university.
Take up an Internship
You can also garner some work experience during your gap year by taking up an internship. Internships offer practical work experience that schools and colleges are often unable to give their students. The world of academics is often very different from the practical world of the job market. Employers want practical, employable skills that schools often do not teach. This is why an internship can be an invaluable experience for you during your gap year.
You can use sites like Internshala to look for internship opportunities in fields that you are interested in. For example, if you are interested in media, you could look for a media house that is looking to hire some interns. By doing this, you learn first-hand the kind of work and responsibilities you can expect while working for a media house before you even start college.
You could also talk to the people at your place of internship to find out what kind of degrees, courses and career paths you can take. An internship is a treasure trove of knowledge, experience, and potentially beneficial professional relationships.
Talk to People
This is perhaps the simplest yet most important thing you can do during your gap year. You should talk to people and get some advice, counselling and guidance for your career. You need not approach a professional education and career counselling service for this, you can simply talk to the people around you.
You should talk to your parents and seniors about your career and education. You should also talk to them about their careers and the steps they took to get where they are. Ask them about what they did right and the mistakes they made, or what they would do differently given the chance. You can learn from their experiences.
You should also contact the alumni of universities you want to apply to as well as the universities themselves. Ask them about the admission process, about the student life, and about career prospects. Also, ask them about funding and how students usually go about fundraising for education in these universities.
If you want, you can also take the time to see a professional education counsellor.
Talking to people helps you make better decisions about yourself and your career.
A gap year is not really a gap, in fact, it is filled with important lessons and adventures. Good luck to you as you embark on your gap year adventure!