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College 101

Checklist: What to Expect From a Gap Year
Article Type: Checklist

Your gap experience may have you volunteering in an orphanage in Malaysia, learning sustainable farming techniques in Costa Rica, meeting with policymakers in Zimbabwe, or earning a River Guide certification in Patagonia.

"This cat will have better days. And you will, too."


With such an assortment of possibilities, how on earth could Shmoop have a checklist for what to expect from a Gap year? Simple: as different as these possibilities may be, every gap experience is going to share certain characteristics. Know—at least partly—what to expect with our Gap year checklist.

You’ll be nervous. This is going to be a very different experience from what you know (hopefully), so there are bound to be some nerves in the weeks before you get started.

Reflect and blog—or journal—often. There will be moments you won’t forget. (But remember, not every moment is mean to be shared…) It may be watching a sunrise from atop a temple, or teaching a classroom of children basic English skills, but it’s going to happen. That’s why you’re doing it. It's a good habit to reflect on your day-to-day observations or write about what you're learning. You'll look back on your year's accomplishments with a smile when you reread these moments.

There will be moments you’ll hate. You will be uncomfortable, cold or hot, wet, tired, scared, dirty. Be ready for these moments, they are most likely to turn into some of your most vivid memories. And when people say they “build character?” They build character. And they prepare you for the brutal finals weeks and the morning after your first frat party at college.

You will be pushed outside of your comfort zone. Outside of your childhood bed, your mom’s lasagna, the Xbox in your room. Maybe you’re scared of heights, or crowds, or public speaking. You can be certain that, whatever your fears, you will most likely need to take a deep breath and jump into your gap experience.

You will be changed. Many students find their gap year helps them gain more independence, maturity, confidence, and builds a new perspective. Not bad, huh? You can bet adults who’ve been working in the real world for 20 years would love to have the opportunity to take a gap year.

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