Plan the gap
When a train approaches a station, you are reminded to take a bit of caution as you step onto the platform, to avoid a fall or at the very least, an embarrassing stumble. A similar cautionary approach is useful for students planning on a gap at the end of high school, before starting university. The break of a gap year can be exciting and fruitful, but without planning it could leave you regretting lost opportunities.
Tips for planning
Why? The reasons you are taking a gap year will help determine what to do with your time. If you are hoping to improve your chances of getting into college, identify what needs to be strengthened – be it test scores or evidence of preparation for the course. Then find an avenue to help you develop. For others, they may want to be independent through travel or work. No two gap years are alike – its pace and content is dependent on individual needs.
How? This can be tedious, particularly if it involves completing applications, whether for jobs, internships, language programs, visa requirements, and most importantly, funding this experience. Many organisations offer a ‘gap year’ experience, but these are costly. Do your research and evaluate what you are getting for your money before you sign up for one of these.
Time management. A full gap year can be up to 15 months between high school and university. You may also have time available as never before – your weekdays will not be structured by an external force. Maintaining a routine is key to making this a satisfying experience.
Reach out. While independence is alluring, trying to manage all this is daunting for anyone, much less someone stepping into the world of adult responsibilities for the first time. Seek help from parents, teachers and counsellors, family and friends who can assist you in navigating the process.
When it’s over. Don’t lose sight of your end goal. Application paperwork and deadlines become your responsibilities, and you should no longer assume you can rely on your counsellors or teachers to keep you focused and aware of what you need to do.
Your goals may also change over the course of the gap year. Things that seemed essential in your senior year may no longer hold the same appeal or importance. Flexibility is as important as preparation in your gap year.
-Tim Stokes and Natasha Tavares, High School Counsellors Western Academy of Beijing (WAB)