7 Essentials To Make Gap Year A Success
We’ve spoken about the gap year concept before here at 4Tests. This is the new term for taking a year off between high school and whatever you want to do next in the course of your educational career. Some decide that college is the answer while others use this time to weigh the benefits of pursuing a trade. It may be a lone decision, but it’s one of the most important calls you’ll make, and taking a year off to decide can help you take the best step for your future. Here are the 7 essentials to make your gap year the best it can be.
One: Finish Strong
By “finish strong,” we mean finish your high school career strong. Don’t slough off any of the classes that you have left, especially the college preparatory courses. Getting in to a school with a great reputation will depend partly on your ability to follow through, even when you don’t necessarily “have to.” It also shows that you are mature enough to see the whole picture regarding where your education is headed. You don’t look at high school as “the end,” but rather as the beginning of something far more important — the rest of your life.
Two: Time Your Decompression
By “time your decompression,” we mean that you should definitely schedule some time throughout the course of your gap year to let go of responsibilities, but only for a brief period. Think of it as if you are unpacking a suitcase at the end of a long trip. That suitcase is filled with a bag or two of dirty clothes. You know you’re going to need those clothes again, but there is nothing wrong with throwing them in the laundry room and taking a couple of days to sleep in. However, you’re going to need your wardrobe again very soon, so letting it sit there for the entire year (or even a month) isn’t much of an option. Moral: Give yourself permission to decompress, but realize that it needs to be only a short period of your gap year and that you’re going to need your skills and knowledge again very soon (as long as you’re going about this the right way).
Three: Make A Master Plan
Once you’ve taken adequate time to relieve yourself of those senior year burdens — generally, after you’ve gotten a few good nights of sleep under your belt — you need to do all you can to start making the future as productive as possible. That means devising a master plan for what comes next. Start by asking yourself where you want to be five years down the road. Once you’ve got a clear vision of that, ask yourself where you NEED to be three years down the road. From there, figure out where you HAVE to be one year from now in order to be on pace for accomplishing these goals. The answers to all of these questions will become your master plan, and from there you can move on to…
Four: Set Individual Goals
If you know where you need to be one year from now in order to accomplish your life’s master plan, then it’s time to develop the roadmap for getting there. Doing that will require that you break your one-year goal down into individualized steps. Each of these steps is a goal, allowing you to know what needs to be accomplished, and by when it needs to happen, in order to be at a good place when your gap year is over.
Five: Use Time Wisely
You’ll find that the older you get, the faster life moves, and there is nothing you can do to slow it down. Your only recourse is to make the most of the time you have left in order to get where you want to be. This goes back to the importance of setting year-goals when devising a master plan. In addition to having those goals in place, it’s also important that they are goals worth having in the first place. Don’t set your sights too low. Make sure you’re always working toward something during the year you take off, or else it will turn in to a year wasted, and that’s something you’ll never be able to get back.
Six: Don’t Be Idle
Again, if you are running in place — or more likely, napping on the couch — then the gap year will do you more harm than good. An old saying states that “idle hands are the devil’s playground.” This isn’t about Heaven, Hell, or religious belief of any kind. It’s about letting inaction dash your hopes and dreams, and it’s true no matter who you are. If you find yourself sitting around a lot and watching movies or playing video games with nothing productive happening, then you need to do something to change it or you’re heading down the wrong path.
Seven: Surround Yourself With The Right People
One hidden danger of the gap year is falling in with the wrong crowd. This can be even more dangerous to your progress than doing so when school is in session. That’s because, when you’re taking a year off and you’re around people who are a bad influence, you have more time to get yourself in to trouble, and with more time to do so, you can get yourself into even more trouble than you would otherwise. And by “the wrong people,” we don’t necessarily mean drug addicts and criminally minded individuals. Those people are often easy to spot. Sometimes the wrong people are simply your friends or family members, who have no real direction in their own lives. By making them the company you keep, you’re more likely to get sidetracked from whatever goals are waiting for you within your master plan.
A gap year can be one of the best decisions that you ever make, or it can be one of the worst. By holding to the seven essentials mentioned above, you’re more likely to see it work for you instead of against you. Still, be on your guard just the same.
[Image via ABroadStudy.net]