Not exactly sure what you’d like to do? Start thinking about it with this gap year cheat sheet…
1. Backpack through Europe
Taking a year off between high school and college doesn’t mean taking a break from learning. Those who choose to backpack it through Europe, or go traveling elsewhere, should use the experience to learn about other cultures, see the world’s great museums and architecture in person, immerse themselves in the history of the locale, etc.
2. Volunteer abroad
One of the more popular choices among gap year students is to take time to give back to society. Often, that involves traveling to an underprivileged part of the world to assist in some humanitarian effort. It can be teaching young children in a poor village, physically helping to rebuild a community ravaged by natural disaster, or assisting the sick.
Some students choose to pursue internships with their dream organizations to get an early look at potential careers, as well as learn the ins and outs of the industry. The key here is to find an opportunity that will truly allow you to gain valuable knowledge and hands-on experience that will dazzle your resume.
4. Language immersion
There’s no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in the place that it is used. Forget about taking language 101 in a classroom – these students go live in foreign countries to soak up the culture, and in turn, learn to communicate in the native tongue.
5. Political campaigns
Civic-minded students looking to do something unique during their gap year can take an active volunteer role in a political campaign or work on behalf of some legislative issue. The best way to start is by contacting your local government offices to see if any opportunities exist.
6. Writing or blogging
The cliche is that some students take time off to write the “Great American Novel,” however, a gap year writing project is much more complex than that. It often includes involvement in some sort of service project or travel so that the student can document his or her experiences through writing, art, multimedia, and/or photography.
7. A formal university-sponsored bridge year program
In the tradition of many British universities, Princeton University announced this year that it would offer incoming freshman the opportunity to opt for a “bridge year” in which they could travel and perform community services abroad. Check with your choice college or university to see if any such programs are available.
8. Help at home
For students who wish to perform community service right here in our nation, organizations like Americorps offers just that chance. From disaster relief and elder care, to environmental initiatives and help for the homeless, there are projects available in almost every state.
9. Be an educator
In another effort to do something life-changing, programs like City Year provide students the chance to tutor, teach, and act as role models and after-school advisors to young children in urban environments throughout the country.
10. A combo gap year
You don’t necessarily have to pick one focus for your time off. Many students choose to split their gap year projects in two or even three, not unlike the semester schedules they’d be following in school. So if you’d like to travel for half a year, and then intern the second half, go for it!