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While gap years have become an increasingly popular way for students to focus on personal growth and resume building, in 2020 more students than ever are choosing to take time off from their studies to avoid the pitfalls and disappointments of remote learning.
At the same time, some traditional gap year options (for example, international travel) aren't currently feasible.
Is your student taking or considering a gap year, semester or quarter? Despite the pandemic, there are plenty of interesting and productive ways for them to spend the weeks and months ahead. Here are ideas they may want to explore.
Remote Students is an online platform for connecting with other students who have similar interests. The community is full of young people looking to make meaningful connections and interested in helping each other out in any way they can. It's a great way to meet new people, join a book club, learn about job opportunities, get feedback on new projects — or just make new friends.
Your student will have to wait a day or two for approval before gaining access to a variety of different groups and forums. There is a group specifically for gap year students where members swap everything from internship opportunities to fun networking resources.
Lunch Club curates networking opportunities by connecting students with mentors in various fields based on background, interests and goals. Simply let Lunch Club know you’d like to meet someone new this week and they’ll match you with someone for a 1:1 video call! Lunch Club student users use this platform to find mentors in different industries to get a better understanding of their areas of potential career interest.
Virtual networking is definitely on the rise as remote learning and work take over. It isn’t the first platform of its kind and likely won’t be the last.
Council Club is another interesting website that aims to create a virtual office-like experience, almost like a co-working space. Members are grouped together to work and converse in bursts, and hosts monitor the chat rooms to make sure people are where they’d like to be. A group will work together silently for 30 minute intervals before breaking out into “water cooler talk.” If your student is just looking to have some conversations without the work, the site also offers separate chat rooms for that.
Many of these sites include panel discussions and Q&A events to check out as well!
Corona Connects began in response to the global pandemic and connects volunteers with remote and in-person opportunities. Your student can use their website to filter projects by state, time commitment and more. Whether it's tutoring, food packing and distribution, or writing letters to older adults, they are sure to find something they’re passionate about.
Volunteer Match is a popular choice due to their quick and easy user platform. You can find a place to volunteer for just about anything and filter down your options by whichever cause you’re most excited to contribute to.
With the national election just six weeks away, your student may want to volunteer to help get out the vote for a candidate or in support of an issue they care about. They could even train to be a poll worker!
Communities devastated by wildfires and hurricane flooding this fall will need volunteer crews to help them clean up and rebuild. This is a serious and potentially long-term commitment but it might be right for your active, service-oriented student.
Your student could help flood and fire victims in other ways — perhaps by coordinating a fundraiser through Americares or collecting needed supplies.
If they're on the fence about whether a gap year or semester is right for them, this Princeton student teamed up with friends to outline the arguments for and against taking time off, as well as a checklist for ways to stay productive.
Your student can also check out these free online resources for building employable skill sets, which would be a fantastic way to bolster their resumes. Taking the time to complete different certifications and licenses — whether it's becoming an EMT or learning how to start their own bookkeeping business — will give them a wide range of skills to draw from and can help make them a more competitive job candidate.
Taking a gap year or semester isn't always an easy decision, and with the increasing difficulty of finding jobs and internships right now, your student may struggle to justify the time off from coursework. But a gap year can deliver many benefits — including maybe even the discovery of a life and career path.