College Graduates: Is A Gap Year Right For You?
Studying for finals and scraping together a thesis is a good distraction from the question most soon-to-be college graduates face: What’s next? With an average of $37,172 in loans, many grads are itching to get into the job market. But diving into the workplace isn’t the only option. Here are some gap-year opportunities to consider.
When Maria King graduated from Tufts University in 2012, she considered graduate school and applied for a few jobs before ultimately deciding to buy a ticket to Australia to travel and volunteer with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). “I knew that I wanted to take time to travel after graduation,” says King.
While “WWOOFing,” King worked on several farms, quickly learning the importance of being up for anything. “You need to be flexible with what you are expecting in terms of accommodations and work duties. You might expect traditional farming work but end up doing something only tangentially related,” she says.
There are many gap-year volunteer opportunities with groups like Teach for America. While King was not paid, salaries for gap-year programs can range from $12,000 to $55,000 depending on the organization, location and type of program.
Amelia Greenberg wanted to continue her education upon graduating from Grinnell College in 2016, but wasn’t ready to take the grad-school plunge. Instead, she went to work for the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership. From a rain forest in the southeast of the island, Greenberg helped the NGO gather GPS and environmental data.
Many government, non-profit and non-government organizations offer year-long fellowship programs like this for recent college graduates. Greenberg’s program was unpaid, funded primarily by her personal savings, but the experience was priceless. “There are an infinite number of ways to engage in the world and do the work that you enjoy,” said Greenberg. Today, Greenberg serves as an AmeriCorps volunteer in an Alaskan science center.
Skidmore College student Wendy Collins is looking to take a gap year between graduating with the class of 2017 and applying for medical school. “I’ve learned things do not always work out the way you plan, but oftentimes it’s for the better,” says Collins, who will be interning for the Mote’s International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in Florida. Her internship is funded by private donors, and she is waiting to hear on a scholarship, as well.
Gap year(s) don’t need to be grand journeys. After a year in Indonesia, I moved home with my parents, got a part-time job as a substitute teacher (yes, it's possible to make money during a gap) and took time for introspection. After all, it’s in the gaps, when we step away from the track of life, when we discover what we really want.
The mission of Next Steps Navigation is helping college graduates navigate the ups and downs of finding their place in the world, by finding their right next step. Recognizing the huge gap between getting a college degree and the realities of entering the workforce, we developed our coaching program to help families navigate this critical transition. We’ll meet you where you are and get you pointed in the right direction to choose a job – and a life – that you love.