The "Gap Year"
Throughout your senior year of high school, you may have heard your peers considering taking a gap year, or maybe you have considered postponing your college enrollment for a year or longer yourself. This is common among students, especially after experiencing an ongoing pandemic. Whenever considering delaying your college enrollment, it’s important to honestly and realistically evaluate if it is the best decision for you.
First, the term “gap year” is often misused to refer to any reason for delaying college enrollment. There is a distinction between taking a gap year and entering (or continuing in) the workforce directly after high school graduation. Often taking a gap year implies taking a year between high school and college to neither work nor continue formal education. This is simply not a realistic option for many recent high school graduates.
For many students, postponing college enrollment for a year after graduation often means that they find or continue working a job to support themselves and their families financially. Needing to support yourself and your family financially is a common and valid reason for considering postponing college.
Taking a length of time without enrolling in any courses can make it challenging to pick school back up and earn a degree. However, outside of enrolling full-time in college immediately after high school, there are other options to consider. Certain options may allow you to continue to pursue your higher education while working towards your other goals. Additionally, these opportunities can be more flexible financially and time-wise compared to full-time course enrollment.
Some things you might explore include:
- These programs focus on specific subjects within a field and can take as few as three months to complete. They can be a way to continue progress towards earning your ultimate level of education.
- Check out some of the programs below:
Taking online classes often allows you to dictate your own schedule, which means that you can work full time while also taking classes.
You are not required to attend classes full time while working towards earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and taking 3, 2, or even just 1 course is still progress towards earning a degree. Community colleges are an excellent option for part-time students because they are generally more affordable. They offer courses that accommodate working a job, and you can transfer credits to another school later.
Continuing your education some way through any of these opportunities can be beneficial down the road to help you:
- Increase the likelihood of enrolling into and completing a degree at a higher education institution down the road,
- Develop your study skills,
- Get a preview of what a college course looks like,
- Narrow your focus of study,
- Stay motivated to earn a degree & more.
Students who continue their education immediately after high school graduation are much more likely to earn a degree than students who do not enroll right away (source). Even if you only enroll in one class, whether online, a certificate program, a 2-year, or a 4-year program, you are making progress and setting yourself up to achieve your educational goals!
If you are unable to enroll in a post-secondary program at all, there are still ways to continue developing your skills in a way that will be valuable to you when you can enroll. You might consider a few of the following options, but keep in mind that none of these are meant to replace earning a college degree.
- Search for opportunities to volunteer in ways that are related to your desired postsecondary program and career. For example, if you dream of becoming a veterinarian, you might volunteer with a local animal shelter. If you don’t find the perfect opportunity, email organizations that align with your interests. They may create volunteer opportunities for you!
- Idealist is a great starting point to find nonprofit organizations and volunteer opportunities
- Check out CoFo Connect for new volunteer opportunities posted every Friday!
College Forward has partnered with IBM SkillsBuild in order to provide students with FREE access to all sorts of resources that will help you succeed in your college goals as well as your personal and professional goals. SkillsBuild is an online learning platform similar to Coursera, Udemy, or Masterclass, but unlike these other platforms, SkillsBuild is completely FREE for CoFo students! You can earn badges and learn about things like job application essentials, professional skills, mindfulness, as well as tons of technology topics like artificial intelligence, data science, or cyber security.
BEST OF ALL College Forward has created our own learning plans with CoFo’s own resources! Students can now prepare to succeed in college and beyond with College Forward in a brand new way.
Check out this resource for finding an apprenticeship program from the Texas Workforce Commission. Apprenticeships allow you to receive on-the-job training while earning pay and working full time.
Take time to update your resume and your LinkedIn profile continually. Or, if you don’t have one yet, create a LinkedIn account. You might also spend some time preparing for future interviews by asking to rehearse with a friend or family member.
Keep informed about any application tasks that you’ll need to complete by referencing our college application checklist.
Asking for increased responsibility or a specific task at your job can help you gain skills aligned with your interests. For example, if you want to study finance, you can ask to help with inventory. If you want a job in marketing, offer to make flyers. Make sure to put these details on your resume!
- Creating things online aligned with your interest is a great way to build your brand. Make a specific Instagram, Youtube channel, TikTok, blog, etc., for your passion area to create and share your content!
Canva has helpful and easy-to-use social media templates to help your posts look professional.
Continuing to read, write, and practice skills will keep you sharp and allow you to deepen your knowledge in your interest area independently.
The speed that we each take to complete postsecondary education is different. Taking time at least once a month to write down your goals and why you want to achieve them can help you stay connected to your dreams.
Am I still enrolled in College Forward if I don’t enroll in college after graduating high school, and how will CoFo support me?
Yes! You will remain enrolled in College Forward regardless of your enrollment status at a postsecondary institution. College Forward coaches are trained to support students in achieving their goals regardless of the timeline. CoFo coaches can provide support in goal setting, career exploration, identifying your strengths, connecting with community resources, and more. As a CoFo student, you can also dictate the type and frequency of support you receive from your coach. We are committed to supporting you through your education journey, no matter what path you take.
What documents should I have on standby?
One important document is your high school transcript. Every college and some certificate programs will request proof that you’ve completed high school, so having a transcript on standby can only benefit you. Transcripts can typically be requested from your high school’s registrar.
We also recommend having a resume prepared. It is never too soon to start collecting your professional experience into one concise place. A resume can 100% be an evolving document. You can make edits to it as you gain more experience or as you receive more feedback on it. You can check out our resume guide to learn how to get started.