How much Gap should you give yourself in a Gap Year?

Gap year, a once American-idea, is now increasingly being adopted by Indian students. And yet, we are far from having mainstream institutions providing affordable structured gap year programmes. So, in this post we will look at 5-steps to plan your perfect gap year experience.

Illustration by Madison Harper/The Standard

1. Intent Matters: Gap Year might seem like an alluring prospect: a full year without academic pressure. In fact, it is one of the major reasons, students opt for a gap year. But the absence of academic pressure does not translate to a whole year of video games and fooling around. A gap year must be purposeful; it must be a rewarding and an enriching experience. So, the first step to planning a gap year is to clearly set an intent:

a. Soul Searching: Do you want to spend the year understanding which career path appeals to you?

b. Testing Waters: Even if you do have an idea of what you want to do, you might want to explore it more and be sure of your choice

c. Avoiding academic burnout: You have everything planned to the detail about your future, but you want to give some time before you plunge into academic again

These are some of the most popular reasons, but yours can be anything. In any case, you must clearly set an expectation from your gap year.

2. Activities: Once you have set an intent, it’s time to put it into action. While deciding on an activity you must consider 3 things: does it hit the brief, does it provide you with joy and does it add to your resume and credential. At the end of the day, a productive gap year, nails these criteria. Some of the activities that you could consider are:

a. Shadow an Entrepreneur

b. Internships/Paid Work

c. International Volunteering with organisations such as Red Cross, the UN.

d. Journalism/Linguistic Learning

e. Cultural Exchange Learning

f. Sports Coaching

These are some of the activities you can look into it. Bear in mind that gap years are extremely customised for the individual, so if you are looking to do something out of the list, then kudos to you.

Illustration byBen Kirchner

3. Research: Once you have decided on the activities, then research about the organisations that provide these opportunities. For instance, my friend who was interested in swimming went to explore scuba diving in one of the best institutes in Chennai. Make a list of all the organisations that provide the services that you need.

4. Yes, and Nos: Once you have the basic list of organisations that you need, sit with your parents and edit it. Consider the cost of relocation and living, the cost of the programme itself and ask your parents to be open with you in terms of financial constraints that your gap year could lead to. Based on that shortlist the organisations.

5. Call’em up: Call the organisation and enquire everything about the programme. Connect with people who have used the same services of the organisation, if possible, to understand their experience. Considering the pandemic, be sure to know the quality of online programme that they are offering. Now, all that is left is to take the plunge.

One of the major reasons for failed gap years is students slipping into idle activities. To prevent that from happening, find an accountability partner for yourself. It could be anyone, including your family. Be sure to check in with them about your progress.

Here’s to taking the plunge!!

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