I have deferred my study abroad plans for next year. How should I make the most of this gap year?

Gap-year can be used as an opportunity to gain life experience, travel new parts of the world, and consider how certain pursuits may fit into a longer-term plan of the school, profession, or personal enrichment. 

Advantages of a Gap-Year

To take a year off has become increasingly common. Years of hard work and focus can leave you a little burned out. To top it, the idea of one-to-four more demanding years of college/university can appear to be even more tiring. If this is the case, then maybe you are considering or have already decided to take a gap year.

Although there is no official data to substantiate the polished skill set that students gain along the way during such gap-year, there is a stark difference between students who take a gap and who do not. Those who take a gap year before college/university come to school ready and focused, as evident through greater focus in the classroom, increased GPAs, greater campus involvement, and an increased likelihood of graduating on time. 

Therefore, you have made a good decision by taking a break, as students who take gap-year are proving to have skills that benefit them both inside and outside the classroom.

Benefits of gap-year include: Increased maturity, Greater ‘ownership’ of one’s education, Increased self-awareness, Greater global awareness, Fluency in a foreign language, Self-confidence, Greater abilities to work as part of a team, Problem-solving skills, The ability to deal well with unexpected frustrations, Successfully working in a cross-cultural setting and Increased independence- refer to Gap Year Association and other organizations.

As a student after gap-year, you are more likely to engage and bring a sense of worldliness to the classroom. Schools are making the deferral process easier, or at least more acceptable, and some are even actively encouraging students to take time off before starting their freshman year.

Things to Keep in Mind about Deferral

The Gap Year Association has collected informal information on the specific deferral process at hundreds of American colleges and universities. Each university/college has individual policies to treat deferral. The one aspect that is common to most of the universities is that many schools will grant a year deferral but not a quarter or semester; thus, making it is almost non-negotiable to have a full-proof plan. 

Although it is rare, it is still worth finding out if your chosen university is open to giving additional college credit for your gap-year activities. 

Another important query that you must clarify with the admissions committee is – if you enrol for classes in a different school, whether you need to re-enrol in your college/university. 

It is important to note that the financial assistance that you are offered with your initial acceptance, will not necessarily hold valid year after, you return. 

You can plan to spend the following Gap-year in one of the five following ways. Within these options lie several others – it’s like a Chinese box, except that at the end of it, you might just find what you like and end up with skills that make you a better person – on the resume and off it. Use this gap-year time to gain skills that may make you a strong candidate. Here are a few ideas for you:

1. Skill Up

With millions of graduates pumped out of universities every year, students need to differentiate themselves from the herd but repeatedly find themselves failing at skilling up for a lack of time. Thus, this gap year can be an essential advantage to you. Pick a course –from a range of e-learning websites like Coursera, EdX, Udemy and the like, and get down to learning. This way you will be able to showcase this “rest” gap as a ‘productive’ gap-year.

2. Vocaboom

You live in a multicultural, multilingual world; which also means that various MNCs, Organisations and Universities will welcome multilingual profiles. Thus, having another language under your belt can be a fulfilling endeavour. The cognitive benefits associated with knowing and speaking multiple languages can give you an organic edge and make you eligible for the higher pay-scale category. 

3. Volunteer!

Use this chance to work on your social and relationship-building skills by volunteering your services at either of the non-profit organisations. Harvard Health Publications published a report which suggests that volunteer work increases the probability of one leading a happier life. Volunteering is never a one-man-show – it involves coordinating between multiple teams; considering this you can also accrue leadership and teamwork skills.

4. Intern!

Interning can allow you all the opportunity for that self-exploration in terms of careers, and thus prove to be beneficial for boosting your profile. You can use this time to gain a ‘preview’ of the career option you’d want to explore. Maybe try out something you hadn’t thought of before.

5. Breakthrough the walls of your comfort zone

If you feel that volunteering might not be for you, how will you know if you do not go out there and try it? Try it this gap year!

6. Solidify your future plans and long-term goals

This is a good time to think hard and solidify your short-term/long-term career goals and what skills you will need in order to accomplish your career objectives. 

Expand your horizons so you can accumulate more possibilities. Take an online course, learn a new language, travel alone — maybe you’ll find something that drives your motivation for that degree program, giving you better direction as to where you stand. To change is hard and scary, it feels safer to remain in your comfort zone and avoid failure. What’s scarier is that this fear of change will stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing. Overcome the fear!


Author Bio:

Rukmini is armed with over 12 years of proven experience in the service industry. Apart from being a study abroad knowledge expert, she is skilled in service delivery operations, training, and audits. She exhibits enormous flexibility to adapt to new processes and policies.

Rukmini’s university placement record includes Brown University, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan Ann Arbour, TAMU, University of Bath, Durham, etc. Rukmini has been acknowledged and awarded as the best performer (under Service Category) in all the organizations she has worked to date.

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