When someone says they’re taking a gap year, the typical image conjured may be backpacking through Europe.
Another popular reaction may be to panic and worry that a gap year could cause a setback in a person’s career journey when, in fact, a gap year can provide an opportunity to make progress in their career development.
While students have been taking gap years for, well, years, they have become particularly relevant during the pandemic, which created more uncertainty about the future. When the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the nature of post-secondary student life in 2020 – namely by moving courses online and eliminating in-person interactions – The Globe and Mail reported that universities saw a significant increase in questions about deferring admission, many with the hope that things might return to normal the next year.
Whatever one’s reasons might be, choosing to take a gap year is not an easy decision. The following resources can help students decide whether or not a gap year is beneficial to them and, if it is, how to make the most of it, whether it takes place during the pandemic or not.
Benefits and drawbacks of taking a gap year
In presenting a list of alternating pros and cons of taking a gap year, this article elaborates on opportunities available to students who take a gap year while also bluntly describing possible disadvantages to consider. This article also offers ideas for spending a gap year wisely.
In this article, Harsh Patel, CEO of Galvanize, describes what he considers to be bad reasons to take a gap year, as well as a few reasons that make it a good idea. The article also briefly explores how the pandemic can affect a student’s gap year and how to make the most of it.
Gap Year Pros and Cons (GVI) [Article]
Put together by GVI, an organization that offers sustainable development and experiential educational programs around the world, this article aims to help students determine whether taking a gap year is the right decision. GVI’s article explore pros of taking a gap year – including how a productive gap year can support one’s career – as well as possible disadvantages to consider.
Note: Students wishing to volunteer and gain meaningful experience abroad may be interested in learning more about GVI’s programs.
The Gap Year Dilemma: When a Purposeful Gap Year is the Answer to Career Unpreparedness (Canadian Journal of Career Development) [Academic article]
In order to explore the benefits and potential downsides of taking a gap year, this study considers survey results from 200 first-year undergraduate students from Western Canada. The report finds that students who completed a purposeful gap year felt their experience was a positive one, but they didn’t gain much clarity or confidence regarding next steps for their career. Using this and other data, this report serves to help shed light on the potential benefits and possible implications of completing what is considered to be a purposeful gap year.
In this blog post, Devon Turcotte – founder of careerified, a GTA-based career and education coaching practice – identifies why parents and students may be hesitant to support a gap year, as well as reasons why taking one can be beneficial to a student’s career.
Why should I take a gap year? (Gapforce) [Article]
While this article was written for a British audience, it offers information that is relevant to Canadians as well. Referring to Prince Harry and how he used his gap year productively, this article answers several questions, including:
- Why take a gap year?
- Can I take a pre-university gap year?
- What are the benefits of taking a gap year?
- Will a gap year affect me getting a job?
Resources to support career development during a gap year
The Canadian Gap Year Association started out as a team of two parents supporting their children through their own gap years and has since become a registered non-profit organization that supports young adults all over the country. Through CanGap, students embarking on a gap year – as well as their families – can benefit from the following:
- Free resources including a “getting started” checklist, a budgeting template, questions to ask program providers, a passion project planner and more
- One-on-one coaching
- A year-long program that enables students to certify their gap year and get support to make it meaningful and productive. Parents also gain access to helpful resources and a peek at CanGap’s online platform
- Quizzes, including “Is a gap year for me?” and “What is your gap year style?”
Discover Year is an organization that offers an organized, planned gap year that guides gappers through summer orientation before helping them explore tools for securing a job. Participants then spend most of their time working while also taking part in educational opportunities put together by the Discover Year organization.
A Discover Year features the following elements:
- skill-building workshops
- career mentorship conversations
- individual and group coaching sessions
- off-site career exploration and team-building events
- networking opportunities
GVI is an organization that offers sustainable development and experiential educational programs around the world. Their many programs include volunteer projects, internships, and professional career development programs (such as career acceleration courses), with the possibility of focusing on special areas of interest such as marine or wildlife conservation, women’s empowerment, teaching, and business and micro enterprise. GVI’s website also provides answers to basic questions about taking a gap year as well as a free downloadable gap-year guide.
Additional reading for taking a gap year during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Coronavirus: How To Take A Gap Year (Top Universities)
- COVID-19 and Gap Years (Gap Year Solutions)
- Should You Take a Gap Year During COVID-19? (TheBestSchools.org)
- High school graduates weigh the benefits of taking a gap year as September looms (The Globe and Mail)
- Taking a Gap Year During COVID? Here’s How to Make The Most of It (NextAdvisor)
- The COVID Gap Year Success Path (SchoolFinder)
- The rise of the pandemic-era “gap year” (BBC)
- Where Can I Travel? (GVI Canada)