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Not Sure What To Do After High School? Take A Gap Year

Written by Andrew Bullis

It’s not uncommon.

Your guidance counsellor may have asked you what your favourite classes were, then took one look at your grades and immediately recommended you go to post-secondary school XYZ, and possibly determined your future without any real thought. And now you’re panicking, because you’re sane and you’re not sure what you want.

“Maybe you should take a gap year,” a friend says to you in passing, now that high school is over.

A gap year (AKA sabbatical year) could occur between your last year in high school and you first year of university or college, or after you complete a bachelor’s degree. It’s not uncommon to take one before diving into the next stage of their life, because it’s a great way to foster independence, gather experience before moving forward with the next chapter of your life.

Worried that “taking a year off” could be detrimental to your education or career? Don’t be. Statistics show that the small number of students who opted for a gap year often lead to better grades.

The important thing to remember is you’re not simply taking a year off; you’re planning a year of academic and/or personal growth. Use it as a chance to help round out your resume with volunteer experience, internships, and unique skill-sets.

So do you volunteer, work, or pursue academics? This question comes down to your intentions. It may be that you’re interested in exploring a different career path before committing to another or perhaps you just want to recharge before returning to school.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses and plan your gap year accordingly. Worried about the social dynamics of university life? Volunteer for something you’re passionate about and you’ll get to know like-minded people while working out that friendship muscle.

Travelling to another country and soaking up culture could give you a valuable perspective that you wouldn’t find in a cramped dorm room. This is also an incredible year to travel within Canada. If you’re from Ontario, go see the mountains on the west coast. From a small town in the prairies? Come see all that infamous 6ix has to offer. If you’re from anywhere that isn’t the Maritimes? Go see them. Experience something new. See something bigger than yourself. Learn. Grow.

Obviously there are some potential risks involved with taking a gap year. You may find it difficult to return to regular studies after such an interesting journey or feel like you are now a year behind your peers.These types of feelings are common and so it’s important to ask yourself if you can deal with them before setting out to see the world.

Price is also a huge factor and you can face unexpected expenses when travelling abroad. Losing your luggage, becoming ill, injured, or even overindulging in night life can negatively impact your budget. Keeping a contingency fund for small emergencies is a smart way to help prepare yourself for unknown hardships.

With your gap year eating into your cash, you will have to learn how to budget yourself, which you will have to do anyway once you go back to school.

One thing that could help you with managing your finances is a line of credit.1Not only could it help you build a credit score, but using it wisely within a budget could help bring you closer to achieving your post-secondary objectives. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide to take a gap year or not. If you do decide on taking a gap year before going to school, or if you choose to go to school right away, here are some financing options to consider.

You should weigh the benefits and research your options as much as possible before committing to the idea of a gap year (but the same can be said about going to school). This may very well be the thing that sets your resume apart from others in the eyes of prospective employers and it has the potential to be a great load of fun.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.