Taking a year off from school can pay dividends if you make sure your experience has just enough structure.
Know Your “Why”
You might take a gap year to decide on which college you’d like to attend (or whether to attend college at all), save money, travel the world, or delay adulthood. No one reason is better than any other. But if you know why you chose a gap year, then you can focus on how to achieve your main goal.
Make a Plan
“A gap year is only as valuable as it is planned and executed,” says Bethany Perkins, director of admission at Miami University. Determine how to achieve your gap year goals by chunking your plans into three-month periods and reflecting on your progress after each period.
Find a Routine
One of the biggest challenges for students returning to college after a leave is learning to manage their time again. If your gap year isn’t inherently structured, create a sense of routine by choosing at least one activity to complete daily, like a workout, a check-in call with a friend, or reading and researching a topic that aligns with your gap year goal.
Incorporate Life Skills
In college, you cook, do laundry, and manage budgets. Learning these skills during a gap year will make college—and life in general—a lot easier.
Document Your Experience
“You’re going to regret [taking a gap year] at one point,” says Perkins. But if you photograph or write down your experience, you can “remember the value that [your gap year] added to your life. You made a plan and executed it…and that’s really powerful.”