Spending Your Gap Year
You got your graduation certificate, and you’re walking these last steps toward the exit door of your high school building. The gates of freedom…
Well, not literally, but you are officially a high school graduate and that counts as a massive achievement. Congratulations!
Now, you made the decision of taking a gap year, and working hard to get into a university in the U.S. This process can seem confusing and very overwhelming, especially if you don’t come from a background that is familiar with the whole process of applying to universities in the U.S.
Start as early as possible.
I have to admit, I’m stealing this advice from someone else, but it’s probably the best thing you can do to yourself. Just start preparing early. I know it’s very easy to feel like you want to relax during the summer after twelve years of going to school, but setting up a schedule and knowing exactly what you may encounter can greatly help you during your foundation/gap year. There are amazing resources online if you look hard enough. One obvious resource is Qimmah’s website. Search the website for sample essays and study guides, especially if you are new to this process. This will tremendously help you get an overall view on what’s happening.
Take things step by step:
This one is somewhat an echo of what is stated in the previous advice, but doing things in small chunks on a greater timeline is much more productive than writing all essays in one week. Of course, doing this would need you to know how to manage your time, and a great deal of that depends on how you are prepared ahead of time. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for just giving it the best you are capable of. Trying to practice small portions of the SATs reading section on a period of three weeks, for example, is better than trying to do all the 30 practice tests in one day. The same goes for writing the essays. It’s sometimes very hard to get an idea of what you want to write about, but staring at your laptop for two hours searching for a perfect idea that would blow the admission officers’ mind is probably not the best approach. Write about anything you have in mind, and then work on editing. This will give you time to write and think simultaneously, and ideas will eventually start flowing, and you will eventually find something that you like.
Utilize the resources available as much as you can.
Whether you are going abroad in this gap year or even staying in the same place you are in, there is one key skill that I think is crucial in helping you grow. If you are going to spend your gap year at an institute in the Unites States of America, there is a tremendous amount of opportunities available to you. Of course, your undergraduate institute will host such similar resources, but it never hurts to build connections and learn how to make the best of the resources and opportunities around you. There are a lot of activities available to help you work on improving any of your skills, and to also just simply try new things. Ask for help, build up your connections, and make random friendships with people that you never thought of approaching. Challenge yourself in the sense that you take the risk of bursting your own comfort-zone bubble. I remember the small talks I had with random strangers sitting in the student center and how I would just talk about various topic which just made me appreciate the things around me, and also get a glimpse of other people’s perspectives on things I once took as absolute unquestionable. This, for me, is the most rewarding part about studying abroad in general. You get exposed to so many perspectives and ways of living, and then you make the choice of how you want your own life to be like, and then start building your own character and personality. If you are staying in the same city, your case is no different. Try looking at things with a new perspective. As cliché as it sounds, be a tourist in your own city. Try getting some work experience, and do some volunteer work.
Use this year to build good habits:
Test new studying skills, and see what works for you and what doesn’t. Try to build good habits that will greatly help your transition to your undergraduate institution. These include developing serious work ethics, managing the money you have, and generally understanding what circumstances help you grow into the person you want to become. Some people prefer working in groups; others prefer working alone. Some would be more productive in environments that encourage asking questions in class, and being more involved in the material while others feel more comfortable when they leave their questions to one-on-one meetings with either their professor or TA. In general, this is a good period of time to get rid of bad habits like procrastination and so on.
Learn to find balance:
I personally struggled with this a lot. It was very hard for me to tell myself that this is the time to just relax, especially that basically the only main thing you are doing is applying to colleges, and just doing this one thing in the wrong way would have been a great disappointment, but I came to the realization that if you are truly working hard, keeping in mind whatever background you come from, you can’t be too hard on yourself when you see the results and get things that contradict your expectations. So, if you’ve worked for straight 10 hours on a Saturday night, you deserve a break the next day.
The second half of your foundation year, and the final results:
In the second part of your foundation year, the part when you are done with the whole applying to universities process, you will have a lot of free time. My tip would be to just enjoy it, and participate in a club or two. These will somewhat fill the time period that you have, and it will distract you from thinking about the decisions.
Yes, decisions, the whole point of your gap year. This will be a hard time on every one. You will have the right to feel whatever you feel when you finally see the outcomes of your hard work for a whole year. But I will tell you this: It does not matter where you end up because you make the experience itself. I’m not saying that colleges and good fit doesn’t exist, but don’t go too hard on yourself when you end somewhere you weren’t necessarily expecting. As overwhelming as it might sound, if you look at it in a certain perspective, this can empower you because you understand that your path in life is the result of your own thinking, and how you make the best of every situation you are in. So, be confident in whatever path you have ahead,
Most Importantly, Wherever You Go, Go with Your Whole Heart