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Planning the Perfect Gap Year – Part 1

Planning the Perfect Gap Year – Part 1

At last! The day for you to submit your final examination paper arrives. The years of piling on honors and extra classes, tutors, test preparations, community-service projects, and other extracurricular activities are now going to be behind you. While on one hand your classmates are preparing to crack the college admissions, you on the other hand have decided to take a year off. Bravo! A million questions must be swirling in your head at this very moment. “What do I do during a gap year?”, “How do I fund it?”, “Where can I stay?” and so on. While planning a Gap Year might seem like a daunting process, we are here to tell you that it really isn’t that difficult! Given below is a checklist we have created in order to help you plan your perfect Gap Year. If you can tick all the points, then you are ready to go!


There have been many cases where students at the end of their gap year simply find that they didn’t get the experience they were hoping for. Not having clarity about “Why do they need to take a gap year and what do they hope to achieve?”, is one of the chief reasons.

While a gap year is about recharging your batteries, it is also an opportunity to learn and grow in ways that will prepare you for a meaningful and fulfilling life. According to Ethan Knight, executive director of American Gap Association, “ A student might not be a good fit if he or she doesn’t have a clear plan of learning or enrichment activities during the time off, or doesn’t feel that they are academically burnt out and are looking forward to classes.” Therefore for a gap year to benefit, it is very important for you to have a clear understanding of what is driving you to take a year off as this will help you set realistic goals.

Determining the right gap year plan starts with identifying and introspecting on some burning questions that matter. Below is a list of some important questions we strongly recommend you to ponder over.

a) Why do I need to take a year off?

b) Will it benefit me in anyway?

c) In what ways do I need to learn and grow to take full advantage of college or work place?

d) What types of experiences and support will help ensure this growth?

Asking such questions will not only help you narrow down your needs and interests, but also give you a clarity on whether a gap year is the best fit for you or not.


Once you have a better understanding of your needs, interests and the goals you have set for yourself, it is absolutely essential to create a structured plan around them. The first step towards creating a plan of action is to identify the type of gap year you’re most inclined to. Broadly speaking, there are 4 types of gap years: –


A gap year is a good time to get a foot on the ladder of your future career path. Depending on what industry or sector you wish to work in, there are well established internship programs and jobs that can give you a taste of working in that sector.

While you might groan at the thought of working during a gap year, but there are many advantages that will make you see a working gap year in a different light. Not only does it help you discern exactly what types of work you would and wouldn’t like, but often it can expose you to a whole range of career options you never even knew existed. In addition to that, it also helps you earn some money, gain skills and experience and build up a network of contacts. If you choose to combine a working gap year with some travel, you’ll get to experience working in different locations, often in multicultural teams and using language skills, giving you a deeper insight into the local culture than you’d get when simply travelling through.

Also, having a productively spent gap year on your personal statement or CV can be a great way of distinguishing yourself from the crowd, as long as you can show what you gained from the time.

Does it sound convincing enough?


Spending the year volunteering is one of the best ways in which you give back to the society. It helps increase your sense of community, give cultural exposure, make new friends and help you build a network of contacts which may later lead to an offer of a permanent job!

Volunteering roles are available in registered charities, foreign-aid projects, not for-profit organizations, governments, and other organizations. Typical roles include administration, finance, fundraising, event organizing, care work and many more.

If you want to volunteer and travel places, there are lots of international volunteering placement schemes which offer short placements (from a week up to a year) across a range of career sectors. This way you can help around the world with all kinds of initiatives. All you’ll need to do is some research and you’ll be all set!


Whether it be the mystics of the far-east, the exotics of southeast Asia, the thrills of Australia, the culture of Latin America, the fun of North America or the history of Europe that calls you there are loads of great things to see and do in every corner of the world.

Students either travel around the world or locally during a gap year. This can be very rewarding as it helps them to unwind, teaches them to be independent, soak up rich cultures and broaden their horizons, widen their social and professional circle, and if lucky helps secure permanent jobs too!

So, are you ready to travel the world?


Imagine being able to study what you desire without the pressure of tests and assignment deadlines hanging over your head. What if you could learn in a brand new environment which doesn’t even remotely resemble the four walls of a classroom? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Studying during a gap year will allow you to take a year out before university or work while still continuing to further your education. Today, many colleges and training centers offer courses suitable for gap year students which help develop key skills such as office, IT and business skills, or gain extra skills and knowledge in fields such as languages, art, music, drama, sports or conservation.

There are several options for studying abroad or in a different location to where you are usually based. You can take a short-term summer program, or apply for a position in an exchange program that specializes in study opportunities abroad and so much more!
Now that you have identified which type of gap year you belong to it is important for you to:

i) Select the places where you’d like to spend your gap year, and

ii) Figure out how much time is available on your hands.

Narrowing down the places will depend on a number of factors such as, accessibility, safety, whether the place caters to your learning needs and so on. As for the duration of your gap year, that will depend on what your learning needs are, how long can you finance your gap year etc.


It is no secret that funding a gap year can take a toll on your parent’s bank accounts as it includes many costs. These include travel costs, living expenses, visas/work permits, driving permits, insurance, internet and mobile phone costs and health expenses!
This was probably the biggest reason why it took your parents some time to wrap their heads around the idea of a gap year!

While planning how to raise funds is a crucial step and a laborious process, it is not unattainable. Once you have figured out your final costing, you can right away start raising funds!

Given below are some ideas which will help you in that process and turn your gap year into a reality.

a) Work before you go.

b) Work during the gap year; either in one place or while travelling.

c) Fundraise through sponsored events and activities.

d) Ask your family and friends to donate. Perhaps instead of birthday gifts you could ask them to donate or pay for completing the chores.

e) Sell some of your unwanted items online.

f) Apply for a grant or a loan from government/federal funding bodies, charities and grant-making trusts.

While these can be carried out anywhere around the world, there are some Universities in United States, like Princeton,  and Tufts University  that have begun to subsidize gap years for incoming students. Also, there are a number of low costing programs such as AmeriCorps,  City Year  or WWOOF-USA  which pay for room and food arrangements.
If until now you’ve been able to satisfactorily tick every point off this checklist, then there is just one last and final thing for you to do. Touch base with your potential contacts living in the areas you are about to visit or work, arrange your stay and book the travel tickets in advance. This way you will not leave anything for the last-minute and won’t get hassled when the day finally arrives!

We understand that it is not just the pressure of planning a gap year that can be tough. Convincing your parents and yourself is a major part of the process. We hope that once you are able to cross that milestone, this blog will help you in planning your gap year to the very last detail.

Gap Year(s) and Why They’re Trending

Gap Year(s) and Why They’re Trending

When Malia Obama decided to take a gap year before starting college at Harvard, it made the world sit up and notice. The news spread like wildfire, not just because one of the Obama’s’ was involved but also because the concept of a gap year had captured the imagination of the public. A number of questions arose, “ What is a gap year?”, “Why do students need a gap year?”, “What do students do during a gap year?” and so on.

In very simple terms, a gap year is an experiential semester or year “on,” typically taken between high school and college or after college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.

Despite the financial challenges and stigma surrounding a gap year, it has many benefits to offer. Universities today have understood this and as a result they not only accept applicants who have taken gap years but also actively encourage admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel or pursue a special project or activity. According to study abroad organization CIEE, Harvard College alone has seen a 33 percent increase in the number of their incoming students taking gap years!

If you’re a student mulling over the idea of taking a gap year and are wondering if it is worth the effort, then do give this blog a read! Given below are the reasons we think why a gap year will do wonders for your personal and professional growth.


Personal Growth

1.Keeps you from Burning Out

One of the most promising articles on this subject, “Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation”  by William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Harvard College describes how pressuring K-12 schooling has become and notes how training for college scholarships or professional contracts begins early, even in grammar school. He further wrote,“Faced with the fast pace of growing up today, some students are clearly distressed, engaging in binge drinking and other self-destructive behaviors. It is common to encounter even the most successful students, who have won all the “prizes,” stepping back and wondering if it was all worth it.”

In fact according to an article by Wall Street Journal,  “Burnout from the competitive pressures of high school is one of the top two reasons why students take a gap year.”

If you also face the heat and pressure of your school or college, a gap year could be a fantastic way to recharge your batteries. It is a chance for students to take a breath and do something that doesn’t require them to ask, ‘How will this look on my college application? As a result, rather than losing motivation or study-skills, you come back refreshed and rejuvenated. Data by American Gap Association  which states, “Taking a 1-year break between high school and university allows motivation for and interest in study to be renewed” supports this claim.

2. A Better Sense of Self

An article by Wall Street Journal stated, “ Apart from the burnout, the desire to find out more about oneself is another top reason for taking a gap year.” A gap year will enable you to achieve this in three ways. One, taking a gap year essentially means taking time off from a hectic life of final examinations, preparing for college interviews or achieving professional deadlines. It allows you to take a step back and introspect. Gives you the time to understand yourself, your skills and interest. Challenging yourself while on a gap year is another way . You might decide to go trekking through a jungle, climb a mountain for charity or volunteer in a developing country. These challenges push you out of your comfort zone, make you face your fears, enjoy new experiences and in the process help you discover yourself. Finally, a gap year allows you a unique opportunity to broaden your view of the world.

According to an article by Joe O’ Shea, director of Florida State University’s Office of Undergraduate Research , “We often develop most when our understandings of ourselves and the world around us are challenged, when we engage with people and ideas that are different. Trying to occupy another’s way of life in a different culture — living with a new family, speaking the language, integrating into a community, perhaps working with local youth, for instance are valuable experiences that help young people understand themselves, develop empathy and virtue, and expand their capacity to see the world from others’ perspectives.”

Professional Growth

1. More Clarity about What to Pursue Next

You might have observed your friends or classmates committing themselves to one area of study, and when they realize it’s not for them, they swap to a completely different major. By doing so not only do they lose out precious time but it also increases the financial burden. If you are in the same boat, then a gap year will do you no harm. In fact it will allow you to put things into perspective and make you more certain of the major you want to pursue.

According to Joe O’ Shea, “Many students overseas who take gap years in between colleges end up changing their intended major after returning as their gap year experiences enrich their courses, strengthen co-curricular endeavors, and animate undergraduate research and creative projects. Therefore taking that crucial time off can help give them the direction they need to confidently choose a major, and ultimately, a career they’re passionate about.”

2. Improved Performance in College

Who doesn’t want good grades and shining comments from the professors? Even the“backbenchers” secretly desire it, whether they accept it or not! Attending classes and studying hard is surely one tried and tested way of doing it, however it is not always a success. Sometimes taking a long break from studying can work wonders for your academic performance.

Robert Clagett, who served as a senior admissions officer at Harvard and is also the former dean of admissions at Middlebury College,recently designed a methodology to track gap year students’ over/underperformance of GPA. He found that students who took a gap year almost always outperformed academically in college as they are relax, rejuvenated and as a result more involved in the campus. Most importantly, the positive effect of taking a gap year was demonstrated to persist throughout the college years.

3. Develop Useful Contacts

Taking a gap year will not only help you forge some lifelong friendships, but also give you an opportunity to build your professional network. Throughout your journey you will meet a range of different people from all walks of life who will either provide you with job opportunities or with references at some point in the future.

4. Gain Relevant Work Experience and Skills for Securing Employment

A gap year doesn’t just allow you to relax, travel around the world or help develop a circle of contacts . It is a powerful medium enabling you to gain skills and experiences that would most certainly help you score your dream job !

According to an article by Institution of Engineering and Technology,  “Past survey commissioned by gapyear.com showed that 85 per cent of HR executives questioned, felt that relevant work experience is more valuable to a job seeker than an average non-vocational degree, and 65 per cent believed that a constructive gap year spent volunteering or gaining work experience overseas made a job application stand out.

From the above data it is very clear that employers are actively encouraging people to take gap years to earn skills and ‘life experience’. Some of the key employability skills gained include organization, communication, teamwork, independence, social skills, decision-making, self-sufficiency, time management, budgeting, using initiative, improved self-confidence, leadership and developed maturity.

It is safe to say that what used to be an experiment earlier is nowadays an informed choice. Gap years aren’t meant for sitting idly and watching re runs of your favourite sitcoms. In order for a gap year to be successful, it is very important for you to first understand, why you are taking a year off? If that is clear then the next step would be to create a plan of action aligned with your interests and learning needs . If you can do this, then a gap year might just turn out to be the unparalleled experience you were hoping for.