Whether you realize it or not, high school graduation if your first real taste of independence. You’ve probably spent most of your life in school with the same people from your hometown who are all on the same path. What happens next is totally up to you.
Spring is creeping up, so it’s time to plan what your next move will be NOW. The most apparent option is college.
College is great for those who know exactly what they want to do as a career and are ready to dive head-first into their major. But if you’re not totally confident about college decisions, then that’s probably a sign to hold off until you know more about yourself and what you want. Taking out student loans just because everyone expects you to attend a university right away seems like a bad reason to go into debt.
Another option is taking a gap year.
Obviously, I don’t mean spending a year laying in bed watching Netflix. A gap year is time spent constructively towards personal growth and can help you succeed in college (and career) in the long run.
Gap years give you the interpersonal skills that aren’t taught in a classroom setting. These are things like interacting with people from different backgrounds, taking initiative, and respecting other cultures.
These skills lay the foundation for a successful college experience. Those who have taken a gap year after high school tends to have higher GPA’s in college, graduate on time, and are better prepared for employment.
Since the whole goal of a gap year is to have new experiences and gain independence, you’re not going to achieve the personal growth you need in your hometown. Traveling is a crucial aspect of the whole gap year idea, preferably in country with a culture that’s different than yours.
Breaking away from what your peers are doing will make some people question your judgment.
If you saw the movie, “Booksmart” that came out earlier this year, you might remember that the character Amy planned on going abroad for the summer after high school graduation. In the movie’s big climactic scene, she admits to her best friend that (spoiler alert) she’s deferred college and decided to go abroad for the whole year, not just the summer. Her best friend is furious, saying that this messes up their whole plan of graduating college at the same time.
This very real fear of not being on the same page as our friends adds so much pressure to the decisions we make as teens. No one wants to feel like they’re falling behind. But unlike the education structures you’ve been used to, college looks different for everyone.
Grade levels feel very separated in high school, but that’s not really a thing in college. You’re more likely to have classes separated by major instead of by freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year.
Remember that just because taking a gap year is unheard of at your high school do does not mean that it’s uncommon in general. While many people go straight from high school to undergrad, there is also a significant number of people who start college later in life.
Here are some ways you can travel during your gap year:
Making money while backpacking is the best of both worlds. Life experience while boosting your resume at the same time. Work abroad programs focus on travel, so these types of jobs give you the flexibility to move around. Popular fields are hospitality and food service, but there are also trade skill options as well.
It’s important to note that this program utilizes a Working Holiday visa, which is only available to those between the ages of 18-29. If you’re interested in working abroad, it’s better to do sooner rather than later.
If you’re looking for specific career experience, try an internship abroad. We other a 12-week marketing internship in Thailand where you can earn academic credit and focus on different marketing initiaitves with other interns.
It’s like being an exchange student, without the school. Basically, you have can live with a host family for 1-3 months with the commitment to tutoring them in English for 15 hours a week.
This your last chance to have that exchange student experience of living with a host family and attending a local school!
You might be wondering, ‘why would I want to continue high school if I already graduated‘ but there are actually a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a major college application boost. You get to take more classes, become fluent in another language, and demonstrate your independence. You can even get college credit depending on the country you go to. If you study abroad in England, for example, their education system is structured differently.
Continuing high school abroad also gives you access to way more resources if you’re interested in applying to college outside of the United States. Just something to think about.
If you can’t pick where you want to go and what you want to do, why not mix and match? Spend 5 months working in Ireland, a trimester studying in Argentina, and a month living with a family in China! How many people can say that they’ve lived on multiple continents? Plus, it will still cost less and college.
The bottom line: Consider all of your options before committing to any life-altering decisions. And no matter what path you choose, congratulations on your high school graduation.