So you're taking a gap year... now the question is, how are you going to fill it?
GYA (Gap Year Association) research found that 90% of students who took a structured gap year were more likely to graduate on time and with a higher grade point average.
Gap year programs are an excellent way to give structure to your year. They allow you to combine service and volunteering with gaining experience and also having a lot of fun, getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people.
They come in all shapes and sizes, the key is choosing a gap year program before college that is right for you. Here’s a little guide to help you narrow down your options.
I have no idea what I want to major in at college…
No problem, this is what a gap year was made for. It’s the time to grow and learn about yourself and find out what you’re interested in and passionate about.
Your best option is to find a mixed program that offers experiential learning and volunteering across a broad range of areas. This will give you experiences to help narrow down your interests as well as work on those vital soft skills. Think about the following… do you want to work in nature? With people? Live back to basics or a little more western? Is jungle or beach life more appealing? Ideally a combination of them all?
With this variety in mind, here are my top three recommendations:
During this program you will teach and engage with primary school kids, work on the renovation of classrooms, put your artistic skills to the test with painting and creating teaching aids whilst also getting to explore Maasai culture.
Stepping away from the service aspects of the program, you will have the chance to go on safari, relax on the stunning beaches of Zanzibar and generally explore the best of what Tanzania has to offer.
Think working with indigenous communities, preserving cultures and conserving some of the world’s most unique and endangered ecosystems.
Ecuador is a country of many faces, from the sprawling Andes to the dense Amazon rainforest and the stunning Galapagos archipelago. This program will take you to all of these. You’ll spend time helping in two different indigenous communities, working to preserve their traditions and understand their culture before setting off for the Galapagos to work on ecosystem conservation and sustainable farming.
In addition to the service projects, you’ll get the chance to let off some steam on an adventure week of rafting, mountain biking and exploring; take free weekends to island hop around the Galapagos; and explore the largest rainforest on the planet.
As mixed as they come… working on land, under water and with the local community. You will work towards understanding and protecting some of Madagascar’s most unique and endangered wildlife both in the forests and around the coral reefs. When it comes to the community aspect of the program you will help a local team teach English to both adults and kids throughout the local community along with engaging them in the conservation issues facing the island.
You’ll come out with a PADI diving qualification, teaching experience and a better understanding of island conservation and community work. All of this whilst living on a remote, tropical paradise island… not bad.
I know exactly what I want to major in…
For those of you who can say this, you are the lucky few and a gap year is a great time to gain experience in your intended field. A gap year can be your opportunity to develop your soft skills, support your future career and even stack up some college credits.
Are you thinking of a career in medicine? Use your gap year to support your application to med school through a medical internship in a developing country. Gain some experience, make your CV unique, help out those in need and make stories to talk about in interviews and application letters for years to come.
Maybe you want to go into the business sector? Now is the time to be getting an insight into the industry. Whether it’s in a high flying Wall Street company like Malia Obama or with a safari and tour operator in Tanzania you’ll be learning and developing unique skills for the future.
Now you’ve got the program down…
Ok, so once you've decided what type of program you’re looking for. Next it’s time to narrow down gap year providers. There’s lots out there, each with their own pros and cons… here’s my top tips for what to look for.
This is by far the most important. Accreditation with the GYA or the Year Out Group prove that the gap year provider has been vetted in areas such as safety, program quality and ethical practices. By choosing an accredited program you can be sure that you are with a provider that is working to the highest standards in the industry.
Independent reviews of a gap year program and provider are in integral part of the decision making process. When talking to organisations ask to speak to past alumni about their experience and have a look on websites such as Feefo who provide independent and unvetted reviews.
Keep it ethical
The gap year industry has come under fire for a lack of ethical and sustainable practices in the past. Ask a company about their policies on ethics and what steps they take to ensure a sustainable future for the program and communities involved.
Here at The Leap we are committed to the principles of responsible travel. 65% of the program fee goes in-country where we work directly with local hosts to ensure the money and volunteer man-power goes exactly where it’s needed.
It’s time to get planning
Now the summer is here and graduation is just around the corner it's the perfect time to get your gap year programs in place for the coming year before you start college. Don’t forget we are always here with expert help and advice to find the perfect program for you.
Need help selling your gap year plans to a decision maker? Don’t worry we have the blog for you… have a read here. Or maybe you're not quite sold on taking one in the first place? Then this is the blog for you.
on 20 / 07 / 2018