365 days of unstructured time to work on becoming my best self—that’s my definition of a gap year. To some, it’s about volunteering or learning new skills like driving. To me, it’s a bit of everything. Because I’m about to go abroad for school, I want to be able to better build my organization and work on projects I had been putting off due to the all-too-familiar hecticness of high school.
There are so many reasons as to why I decided to take a year off before heading to college, and this article will tell you a bit more about why I chose an ‘unconventional’ path and how you can consider it too.
1. Get job experience
Taking a gap year is the perfect opportunity for you to get as much ‘real-life’ work experience as possible. Many people see this as interning but I chose to go for a part-time job. This decision was fueled partly by my desire to be less financially dependent on my parents but also to be able to truly experience what the workforce is like. Because I run a community organization with 70 other students, I sought out a job that would be flexible and content-based. The result: me working part-time at Edukasyon.ph and creating content, just like this article you’re reading right now!
Through my work so far, I’ve gotten to engage with people from different backgrounds and go to a cool office space for at least eight hours a week. While commonly the youngest person at meetings, I’m practicing voicing out my opinions and making sure that my suggestions are still heard.
2. Work on passion projects
As I said, I lead a community organization that aims to bridge the gap in gender inequality and tech accessibility here in the Philippines—two very ambitious goals, I admit. In order to achieve those goals, my team and I are constantly hustling and working on projects, attending meetings, and representing our organization at events and conferences. To make the most of those opportunities, a gap year has let me actually attend most of the events I get invited. I’m also now more present at meetings because I don’t have to worry about juggling school and non-profit commitments. Instead of feeling half-there, I’m fully present in the work I do every single day.
3. Practice self-care
Self-care is a buzzword that’s been thrown around on social media a lot lately. In all honesty, it can mean different things to each person. But for me, self-care means making time for friends, getting enough sleep, and working out. Those were three things I didn’t get to have a lot of during my last year of high school, as the pressure of college applications and uncertainty about the future really kicked in. As much as I love the work I do, I recognize that I cannot fully commit myself to it if I’m not treating my body and my mind right.
4. Recover from the high school ‘burnout’
In high school, I pushed myself to the core. I’d wake up at 4:00 wakeups to write essays, join late-night conference calls, and to calm myself down during really bad days were all the norm. Needless to say, this gap year has not been nearly as stressful as my senior year. Now, I actually have time to breathe and enjoy my routines—the meetings, calls, and work lunches—and not feel any amount of guilt about how I should be studying or doing something school-related. I’ve also caught up on a lot of sleep—a must for any high schooler!
If there’s anything that ties together all the reasons I just listed, it’s that they all have to deal with becoming my best self in preparation for college. I haven’t even officially gone into what would’ve been the school year, yet I already feel how much I’m growing—as a person, advocate, and leader.
Gap years can be intimidating but they can also be incredibly rewarding. As long as you figure out your “why” and come up with goals you want to achieve during your year off before school, you will be anchored by that sense of purpose. You have the potential to be your best self before you start a new and exciting chapter of your life!