The White House recently announced that the oldest of President Barack Obama’s daughter, Malia Obama will be taking a year gap before attending Harvard in 2017. A year gap (or gap year) is defined as a 12-month gap from your regular studies between high school and college or anytime after completing your university when you decide to do something adventurous, learn new things, volunteer, intern, be a globetrotter, earn money or simply do nothing – it is a great way of self-exploring and gain a new perspective towards your career.
Many consider ‘gap year’ as a hindrance to their college admissions or ‘wastage of time’ which is not correct because it could be a way to make the best use of that time – a channel to develop yourself better. American Gap association gives an insight into the benefits of a successful gap year.
There are numerous ways you can plan what to do in your gap year. Here is a list of a few ideas:
Ask yourself what exactly you want to do during your gap year – write them down. Be proactive with the choices you make and utilise this time to discover what suits you best and what are your interests. Be prepared to stand away from the crowd and build your attributes that will help you in the next step ahead. The decision-making process that you undergo will help you to carve out a niche for yourself.
It gives you the opportunity to reflect on yourself and decide which is your path; you may find that your path is different from what you had planned so far. This is the only time you get to ask yourself questions and wonder if you can do certain things now – just go! Get going!
2. Piggy banking!
Find an internship that pays, even if minimal, or take up a job that will teach you to be independent. Earning could be in many ways – working in a research laboratory, teaching in an NGO or interning in a firm. Acquiring new skills like web designing, video editing, photography and event management in less than 6 months is possible too in a gap year which could help you generate additional funds.
The money earned could be contributed towards buying textbooks, accommodation, college fees or getting a new dress for your orientation when you become a college kid.
3. Travel with purpose!
If travelling is your passion, a gap year is the best time when you can go ahead and make a foolproof travel plan. Just detach yourself from the virtual world and dive into the pool of travel lust. There are plenty of travel sites that will help you plan your journey.
If you are bothered about money and think that travelling is only for rich kids, you are wrong because crowd funding resources are meant to help people like you travel, without paying from their own pocket.
But keep in mind that ‘too much of everything is bad’ so your partying around should not be a roadblock to your travelling. This should be a good time to know your fellow travellers and locals, try different cuisines and see things never seen before.
4. Better not to think too much!
Gap years are supposed to be fun-filled so you should wear your hat and get to the ground. Learn some additional skills like volunteering in an NGO, hospital or in a sanctuary. These skills will prepare you for additional set of challenges in the future. Take note of events that will enhance your character, and dig deep to know more.
65% of HR executives surveyed by gapyear.com in 2011 said volunteering abroad made an application stand out.
5. Networking while working!
When you travel and volunteer abroad, it gives you an opportunity to create a mesh and develop connections with people from varied cultures, and soon you will find yourself surrounded with a plethora of ideas and information. The time you invest in establishing cross-cultural ties will definitely reward you.
6. Tailor your resume!
All your acquired skills during a gap year should be treated like a new job and recorded in your CV which will be an added benefit when employers view your CV. You should not shy away or apologise from talking about your gap year; instead it should be the top priority in the CV so that the reader can understand what kind of person you are. Make sure you know how to pitch your resume by incorporating relevant details.
7. Do something rare!
If earning or travelling turns out to be a vague idea to you, you can explore more options in terms of learning a new language or a new instrument. Sites like Coursera help you learn anything online, with a certification. Pursue your hobbies that you always wanted to – photography, skiing, scuba diving, yoga, dancing and many.
You can try your hands on cooking so that you do not starve yourself, if you are planning to go far from your nest for your higher studies.
Chalk out a plan on what you always wanted to do and based on that you can select a few that will ideally help you in the long run, for example, try learning new words each day and soon you will find yourself to be the smartest person in the entire classroom.
8. Read and write!
Open a blog and start writing about what you are doing or did during your gap year – the most incredible journey of your life – with some photos and videos. You can learn some tricks of SEO or join some offline writing platforms perhaps to hone your writing skills and, most importantly, engage yourself in book reading clubs to improve your reading habits.
Keep yourself open to socialise with people who like to visit book hosting ceremonies to know more about different authors.
This reading and writing skill will definitely help you to write a kick-ass cover letter for your application process later.
There are various online portals where you can freelance for a vast number of jobs in the market and get paid really well. Sites like Elance, Freelancer or Craigslist should be good ones to start with.
Freelancing is not only an easy way of earning money but it also gives you the flexibility and independence that you need while working.
10. Reward yourself!
Life is not just about job, money, ambitions and death. The truth lies in how rewarding and rich your life is in the midst of all chaos. So taking time off from studies to do something unusual is a definite reward for yourself. A gap year will help you recharge your heart and brain so that you get back to normal daily routine with a fresh instinct.
Discuss with people who have experienced a gap year. Read why Malia is planning for a gap year. Talk to your parents or guardian about what they think of your idea on a gap year. You can quote the above points listed here to them.