After observing other gap year students and taking a gap year myself, I’ve noticed some patterns. I've noticed that there are two essential meta-skills you absolutely have to practice as a gap year student:
1. How to be comfortable with uncertainty
It takes guts to take a gap year, because you’re admitting to the world that you don’t have your life all figured out. No one does, obviously, but being able to admit this openly is a sign of maturity.
If you choose to go the college route, you’ve chosen a path that is well-traveled and “safe” in the eyes of society. College students know for certain what they’re going to be doing for four years: going to school. Gap year students don’t have that luxury.
Perhaps you chose to take a gap year because you didn’t know what you wanted to study in school. Perhaps you took a gap year because you didn’t know if you even wanted to BE in school.
On your gap year, you’ll be confronted with a lot of uncertainty as well. Your plans during your time off from school will most certainly change, or not pan out the way you expected them to. And that’s okay. Welcome to real life.
2. How to be a misfit (and explain yourself!)
“So where do you go to school?” This is a question that I get asked by almost everyone I meet. (A more neutral question, by the way: “Where in life are you?”)
People make the assumption that every young person is in school. Not all of us are, of course, and people who are taking a gap year have chosen a noticeably different step.
Usually people can answer the question above with one or two words, and then the interaction is over. Interactions as a gap year student go more like this:
Other Person: “So where do you go to school?”
Gap Year Student: “Actually, I’m not in school right now. I’m taking a gap year.”
Other Person: “Whoa, that’s really interesting. Why are you doing that? How are you spending your time? What will you do after this year?”
Gap Year Student: “Well... [insert rather long explanation here]”
The thing above doing unusual things is that you have to justify them constantly -- which is great, actually. You immediately seen as someone interesting to talk to. You get extra practice pitching yourself, which will come in handy in the long run. You delve into the why behind what you’re doing, and as a result have a platform that allows you to have more meaningful conversations.
What are other skills that Gap Year students have to learn? Send in your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.