Jun 17, 2020 By Team YoungWonks *
Given the havoc wreaked by COVID19 this year, 2020 has turned out to be a challenging year for everyone - be it grownups or kids. A lot of plans are being put on hold and with colleges doing mostly online classes this year, many parents and students may not see the merit in paying high tuition fees for these online classes. Consequently, many college students and students who have finished high school are likely to wait it out this year and join / resume college in 2021 instead. Which makes 2020 a gap year. The question then is: what can one do during this COVID19 (Coronavirus) college gap year? This blog tells you what your options are. It may be a tough year, but you needn’t lose heart - there’s lots you can do to expand your worldview and cement your portfolio.
But before we get into that, let’s look at what the term gap year means.
What is a gap year?
A gap year is the year one consciously decides to take as a break from one’s formal education. Typically, it is the year between high school and college/university, but this is not always the case. Similarly, a gap year doesn’t have to be one-year long either. So in a nutshell, a gap year is basically referring to the time taken off from one’s academic pursuits.
You can read more about gap year in our blog https://www.youngwonks.com/blog/What-is-a-gap-year-and-how-is-it-helpful-to-students.
What you can do during this COVID19 (Coronavirus) college gap year
A gap year can be a good move, but only if one knows how to make good use of that time. To do this, one needs to examine exactly what he/ she plans to do in this gap year. Often, gap years are when students travel extensively and take up odd-jobs as part of the experience. With COVID19 though, travel may no longer be on the table - especially international travel is slated to become quite strict even as countries reopen borders - so this means that students will have to look at other activities. Whatever the activity, remember the golden rule: a good gap year is one that serves as an extension of one’s education, an assimilation of varied experiences and perspectives. The aim is to ultimately evolve as a person.
Below we have shared with you a series of activities - all very fruitful and helpful even as they focus on all-rounded development - that can help you next year with your admissions and higher studies (and later on in your career). These are roles that will help you develop world view and broader perspective.
1. Activity: Take up a virtual internship
What you get out of it: Adding to/ building up your work experience, making some money to fund your college studies
Given the need to maintain social distancing, a virtual internship is ideal as it can be taken up from the comfort and safety of one’s home. Working online from home has become the new normal, and thus virtual internships are no longer uncommon - regardless of the industry. A virtual internship then, much like a regular internship, can serve as a springboard for your career in the future. It will help you learn hands-on even as you work for your employer and the work experience will not only enhance your resume but also help you forge connections with seniors who can help you once you have completed college. Work experience gained as part of an internship shows initiative on your part and it will guide you in making a good career choice, one that is best suited to your personality and interests.
2. Activity: Take up an online course
What you get out of it: Acquiring new skills and honing your current skill set
You may not join college this year but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. If anything, the gap year can be an excellent time to build real life skills which will in turn help you get a job upon graduation. Indeed, one can make very good use of the time one has by opting to enrol for online courses. E-learning has been around for a while, but with COVID19, it has become prevalent across the world. Geographical boundaries do not matter here so one can pick up a new skill by learning about it in a virtual classroom.
For starters, one needs to know what skill one wishes to acquire. Accordingly, one must look up online classes that offer teaching in that subject. It is advised to vet the company offering the class before joining, especially today when there is no dearth of online learning options. Once you have done so, throw yourself into the pursuit of knowledge and enjoy the ride!
Several subjects are being taught online today, but technology and programming continue to rank high on the list. So if coding is what you have set your sights on, classes such as ProWonks (www.prowonks.com) will be a good bet. A computer science program / class for people above the age of 16 years, ProWonks offers one-on-one mentorship in subjects such as full-stack web and mobile development, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
3. Activity: Learn a new language
What you get out of it: Getting exposure to a new world, acquiring new skills
Have you wanted to learn a new language for a while now? If so, this is the best time to start doing so or even to polish your rusty French (or German, Spanish etc). You could go for a language that has always fascinated you (say, the language spoken at your favourite holiday destination) or for one you think will benefit you tremendously in your day-to-day life or even future career.
Many universities have begun to provide online language classes and there’s also options such as Duolingo which offers free access to their website and app (though premium services come for a fee).
4. Activity: Volunteer to help public health care authorities during the COVID19 pandemic
What you get out of it: An opportunity to give back to the society, to learn about crisis management
With the increasing number of COVID19 cases and deaths, healthcare systems across the world continue to be overwhelmed. There is a dire need for more staff, more PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), more funds. And while you may not necessarily be able to contribute to the latter two, you can be of help by volunteering for health care centres, hospitals, etc. Given the scale of the pandemic, every bit counts so do not hesitate to step forward.
It could even be something as simple as running errands for vulnerable people and providing phone support to senior citizens.
5. Activity: Volunteer for a political candidate you believe in (for students in the US)
What you get out of it: Learning about working in a team, standing for something you believe in
There can’t be a better time for you to be the change you wish to see. Especially for students in the US, this can be a gamechanger of a year - it is election year and a revolution is brewing in your country. This is your time to be aware and make others aware; this is the time to stand up for what you believe in. With no college this year, you can now devote your time and energy to working with other like-minded people and work towards making the authorities accountable for their actions. One can do so by volunteering for a political candidate you believe in, someone who can change the system for the better. Get started by getting involved with the local candidate / party representative. As a volunteer, you can help people register to vote, become a poll worker or even manage social media promotion.
6. Activity: Take up a local job (but ensure you take plenty precautions)
What you get out of it: Adding to / building up your work experience, making some money to fund your college studies
This is a lot like taking up a virtual internship except it needn’t be a virtual job. One may have to step outside and actually travel to the place of work (say, a shop, mall), so one will have to take a lot of precautions (wear a mask, wash your hands thoroughly, get your temperature tested, stay clean and watch out for Coronavirus symptoms). You are likely to get paid less given your lack of experience and the current economic climate but think of the job as your practical learning experience where you get to manage time effectively, and in some roles, even deal directly with customers. And what you do end up earning, you could save for your college.
7. Activity: Creating content (a blog, Youtube channel, podcast)
What you get out of it: Working on your research, communication and marketing skills
One can argue that there is a plethora of online content out there but the demand for good quality content shall never wane. In fact, it has only spiked even as more people turn to the Internet, a direct outcome of staying indoors in light of COVID19.
So, if you have had an idea for that blog, vlog, Youtube channel or even podcast, now is a good time to get started and see where it takes you. Setting up the communication channel is hardly that difficult today. But you will need a strong USP to distinguish your content from everyone else’s and you will have to work hard to maintain it. Doing so will be surely worth it - even during and after college. After all, strong communication and marketing skills are not that easy to come by, so do not shy away from working on them and making them your valuable assets. This will also mean working on your SEO, an experience that will keep you in good stead when you enter the job market.
The bottomline is simple: do not look at gap year as a waste, you can use this year wisely and be productive throughout if you do your research, figure out what you want to do and are dedicated to it. All the best!
*Contributors: Written by Vidya Prabhu; Lead image by: Leonel Cruz