Learning happens at every stage of life, often outside of school. For students who have recently graduated high school, taking a year to discover more about themselves and the world may be a good opportunity. Think that travel and social-distancing restrictions might limit your options? Wondering what makes a successful gap year? Don’t worry – we’re here to help you make the most of planning out your gap year in Canada.
Haven’t decided if you’re taking a gap year yet? Be sure to check out our tools for helping you navigate your post-secondary options.
Do your research.
Make a personal investment in figuring out what you want to do with your year and treat it like you’re researching a post-secondary institution. This is a big decision so take the time to think about and plan your gap year. . To help you outline your goals and objectives, download our worksheet to help guide your decision-making process.
Structured vs. Self-directed
When making your plan for your gap year, it’s important to establish whether you’ll be creating your own path or enrolling in a pre-planned guided gap-year program. Will your year be spent travelling, volunteering and experiencing new-found independence? Or will you be looking for a new job, an internship or other leadership programs to gain hands-on, career-building experience before your first year of post-secondary education?
There are pros and cons to both options. A self-directed year will allow you to find independence, responsibility and can teach you how to learn at your own pace. However, you’ll need to be diligent to stay on top of your responsibilities, and the transition back into post-secondary may take a bit of adjustment.
At the other end of the spectrum, many organizations offer pre-planned structured programs allowing you to select from a variety of curated experiences or learn specific skills. A structured program may help you maintain work habits that translate well to post-secondary life, however certain programs may come with fees or other costs. Ensure you fully explore the pros and cons of both choices before making your decision.
Experience new places.
Do you want to travel? You still can, even with current restrictions in place. Often, Canadians don’t get the chance to explore their own country. In fact, according to StatsCan, only about a third of domestic trips within Canada are for holidays, leisure or recreation. You may be limited in where you can go, so figuring out what you want to ultimately experience or get out of travelling will help you carve out a plan for exploring new regions and visit more of Canada.
Set your goals
What do you want to get out of your gap year experience? Think about what you want to accomplish:
- Is there an activity that you want to do, like going on a wilderness canoe expedition, or hike a provincial or cross-Canada trail? Outdoor adventures can be found in every corner of the country, as Canada boasts over one thousand provincial and territorial parks. There’s also a VIA Rail Student Pass if you’re planning on travelling through Ontario and Québec.
- Is there a hobby or passion that you’ve put on hold that you’d like to get back into? Or even a new skill you’ve always wanted to develop, but have never had the time, such as painting, writing, or playing an instrument? There are many websites online that can help you hone your skills, whether they’re artistic or technical, such as Skillshare or Coursera. Developing certain skills now can also contribute to employability, as employers often look for candidates with diverse skills. At the end of the day, it’s all about pursuing your passions and interests.
- Do you want to give back to your community, or support a cause important to you, such as climate change, anti-racism, or indigenous rights? Volunteering is exceptionally rewarding, and is often a way of meeting new people and learning more about the world, while providing an enriching and educational experience.
Traditionally, many have viewed gap years as an extra year to backpack abroad or work to save up money. While both are common options, there are many other pathways you can take when planning out your gap year. Many post-secondary schools are implementing precautions to safeguard their students and faculty against COVID-19, prompting students to consider gap years as a way to defer their applications until things return to normal. Whatever your motive is, the key is to do your research and understand what your goals and objectives will be for the year. This important planning work will help you determine what will best help you learn and grow after high school.