Taking a year off between undergraduate and postgraduate education
You just graduated college and you are torn between pursuing graduates studies and taking a year off; a gap year. It is amusing that the initial reaction to a gap year comes with skepticism and doubt. Of course prior to this stage you thought long and hard about making this decision. It is inevitable that different mood alternating thoughts came to your mind. Thoughts that if you take a gap year what would you do or where would you go? Do you do some soul searching, pick up a skill or get a job to sustain yourself and/or future plans. One thing without a doubt is that time waits on no one and as the clock ticks you have to be as productive as possible no matter what you choose to pursue within the year. You must somehow make it count.
You have to be completely open minded to take on the experience with a willingness to take all the opportunities that come your way; you will find that way it overshadows all the negative thoughts.
In recent years, it has been encouraged by many universities for admitted students to take a year off before pursuing their degree. The American Gap Association estimated that some 30,000 – 40,000 students take a year off annually in the United States; a figure which has grown between 20-30% each year since 2006.
“The growing popularity of gap years speaks to a larger conversation in the US about what direction education is heading and how we help young people become thoughtful, caring citizens,” Joe O’Shea, president of the AGA, says.
So whether you want to travel and enroll in doing some fellowship, doing some training or discovering who you are as an individual. Or you want to gain work experience or contribute to an organization as the working class to generate funds. You must make this gap year memorably, life-changing and more meaningful than sitting on the couch eating away your uncertainties and watching re-runs.
You can easily find 101 ways that it can hinder you as a person, for example your elixir of youth is running out and the biological clock is ticking; but what are the benefits? Here are few:
“I took a gap year in order to gain work experience and increase my productivity. I took on an internship and I found that the months flew past quickly and I was left with developed skills. I learnt a lot of new skills and built my confidence in working with people.” – Recent UWI graduate.
With that said, what can you get from taking a year off ?
- Develop new skills that are not necessarily taught in school e.g. learning to drive. These skills can be seen as integral and necessary in development and are seen as milestones in life.
- Plan out the next five years of your life. We all need to construct a guide that we can follow in order to maneuver through life. Setting goals for the next five years, especially at this point in life will become helpful in the long-run. You aren’t getting any younger.
- Get a job. Whether it is for work experience or to get a steady income for savings or priorities like funding education, getting a job should be an option on what to do during your gap year. It helps when you apply for bigger positions which require that you have two – four years’ experience in the field.
- Build your character. Character building never hurt anyone. If you take some time to build your character, who you are as a person and what you want out of life, your subsequent decisions subsequent will revolve around that and be more meaningful along those lines.
- Research and experience how marketable your degree is and build your certification and career. If you realize that your degree has not afforded you a stable job, you might want to re-evaluate your career choice. If that is definitely what you want to do however, you should take the time to obtain certification in areas that would add to the marketability of your degree. No one ever said there was one sure way to being successful.
By Alexandra Daley