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June 30, 2021

How to Make the Most of a Gap Year after High School

For parents of recent high school graduates, you know that the next steps your son or daughter takes toward future education or employment are important ones. For some, immediately enrolling into a college or university is the right decision. For others, entering the workforce is a better fit. And still others, pausing for a gap year makes the most sense.

While a gap year is an established experience in Europe, it has only recently grown in popularity in the US.  And, a larger number of US students are considering a gap year in 2021-2022, as a result of the global pandemic.  Keep reading to learn more about the gap year and the benefits and outcomes of taking a gap year after high school. 

A gap year is a semester or full year of experiential learning typically taken between high school graduation and college enrollment. Gap years are intended to give students a break from academics to discover themselves and consider what kind of education and career they want to pursue. There are many great uses for the time spent during a gap year that can provide a recent graduate with valuable experience and insight to build out the plans for their future. 

Why Take a Gap Year

Foremost, it’s important to understand that a gap year is not intended to be a vacation or period spent doing nothing of lasting value. Rather, it’s a valuable period in any young adult's life that can allow for the refining of professional goals and preparation for the future. 

If you find that your son or daughter is mostly undecided in their career path, a gap year can allow them to explore their goals for their life more deeply and clearly so that when they do make a decision about their next steps, it is not forced or rushed. Simply put, taking a gap year is a very acceptable choice for some students. There are a variety of reasons why students are opting for a gap year. Here are just a few to consider:

  • COVID: Uncertainties in higher education during the global pandemic are causing students to take a gap year so that when they do select a college or university, they feel it will yield the fullest campus experience without limitations.
  • Burn Out: Exhaustion from finishing high school during a pandemic is another reason why students need a little extra time to process their expectations and goals for the future. So much change and adaptation has taken place over the last year, so a pause creates a healthy environment to process the changes and clear a path leading forward.
  • Economic Recovery: Another reason for a gap year is to allow for students to help a family business recover from pandemic. In some instances, this is an all-hands-on-deck approach where pausing and stepping in for a year can mean the difference of success or failure for a business.
  • Finding Themselves: And finally, some students just really need the quality time to evaluate career options. A rushed decision, especially for your professional future, is never the best decision. 

How to Get the Most from a Gap Year

There are a variety of structured gap year programs that offer everything from travel to rewarding volunteer opportunities. Before rushing your son or daughter into making plans for their gap year, it’s important to recognize that not everyone will want to go from one structured environment to another. While you certainly want to see them make the best use of their time during a gap year, it’s acceptable to not immediately have a structure for how the time will be spent, or to have pauses between programs and activities. 

Although a gap year is intended to be less intensive than college, enrolling in courses where you can gain college credit is a smart way to ease into higher education while still allowing ample freedom and flexibility in your schedule. There is both a cost and benefit of gaining college credits during a gap year. NuPaths’s courses average about $875.00 per credit hour, which is less expensive than many other options available to recent high school graduates. Many schools have a transfer credit database where you can see how your education will be applied, so it’s smart to check that a course’s credits will be accepted by your future college choice before you invest time or money into enrolling. 

In addition to college courses or training programs, some alternative ways to spend a gap year include traveling to learn or volunteer, taking on an internship to gain career experience, or pursuing a passion.  These are some examples of character-building experiences during a gap year. Such experiences add interest to a resume and will likely spark inspiration for future essays or interviews that will be a part of continuing education and a professional career. 

Gaining Useful Tech Skills

Using a gap year to gain technology skills is a highly beneficial way to get ahead in a professional career. Now more than ever, technology skills are beneficial in all college majors, as well as daily life! These skills will not only help  when earning a college degree, but they will be immediately useful in helping to land a first job after graduation. 

Honing in on technology skills is a smart investment during a gap year because it allows for skill stacking, which becomes a foundation upon which everything else can grow. Even better, having solid technology skills gives freedom and flexibility. Should plans change and college no longer be the future plan, strong technology skills can easily transition into the workforce in just about every industry. 

To gain useful tech skills during a gap year, online courses and training programs, like those offered through NuPaths, are cost-effective and convenient, while not requiring a huge time commitment. Best of all, your son or daughter can choose from a variety of fields and focuses to align with both their passions and future pursuits. 

The Big Takeaway

The most important thing to remember when choosing the option of a gap year after high school, and getting the most from this experience, is to focus on staying engaged. You want to find structure and meaning with this time, while still allowing for the flexibility to pursue alternative activities and educational opportunities that help build experience and character. 

If you think your high school graduate could benefit from learning a technology skill during their gap year, NuPaths is an excellent resource for convenient and affordable course options. Students learn from the comfort of their home, with the ability to structure their schedule around other activities. In total, NuPaths has five online programs your student can choose from during their gap year. Click here to learn more. NuPaths also has programs to help families afford tuition.

As your high school graduate navigates their next steps, remember that a gap year has benefits that may serve them well. This time can also be extremely valuable for helping them to find focus while building a solid foundation of skills. Learn more about how this might look for your student by reaching out to a student success coordinator today.

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