Life @Harvard

Gap Year Ideas: 15 Professional & Personal Projects

Wondering what to do during a gap year during Covid? Here are 15 gap year ideas for you if you’ve deferred college admission or are looking for productive ways to spend your time.

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With the pandemic going on, education has taken on a different meaning altogether. Home-study, Zoom classes and virtual group-meetings, everything is different. This means that everyone’s missing out on the campus experience, which personally, I consider to be the most important part of going to college. After all, we learn even more outside the class than we do inside it. More and more students, that’s why, are opting to take a gap year and defer their admissions. In fact, universities like Harvard are actually encouraging students to defer admissions and take a gap year to increase their skill-sets otherwise.

As easy as it sounds, a gap year does not always turn out to be as productive as it first seems. For many students, the idea of taking up a personal project sounds exciting, but because of different reasons, thy often slack off or are unable to complete it. Many students report their gap year getting wasted after a few months.

If you’re in the same situation, here are some ideas that will make you feel productive. Here’s what to do during your gap year, and at the end, I’ll give some personal tips on how to increase your concentration, keep being enthusiastic and manage time well so that you can achieve all your goals.

Why You Need Your Gap Year to Be Productive?

Well, let’s start with the most obvious question. If you’ve decided to take a gap year, it’s crucial to make good use of your time and work on a project, learn a new skill or use your time towards something productive. Why? Well, the obvious answer is that it’ll look good on your resume later on. When you apply for a job, you’ll have something to show for it, which will impress your prospective employers. Furthermore, it will even give you the opportunity to actually enhance your professional skills.

Also read: Extracurricular Activities for Harvard Applications: Make It Count!

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However, let’s get to the less obvious answer. And that is confidence. Taking a gap year is an unusual thing to do, even when it’s commonly encouraged these days. Students who opt for the unusual path are most prone to questioning their self-worth, especially if they are capable and smart.

If you use your time well during the gap year, it’ll make you feel that you are capable of taking up a project and completing it by yourself. It’ll increase your self-esteem and even make you confident enough to take up other projects in your professional career later on. And I know this because I’ve seen instances of both sides among my interns and employees this year.

Also check out: Importance of Developing Soft Skills in College

Gap Year Ideas

So what are the best possible ways to spend your gap year? Here are some of the best possible ideas, most of which I have actually worked on in my personal free time over the years!

1. Join an Internship

Lots of companies are offering remote internships, which you can search on websites like letsintern or monster. Many of them are paid, and plenty of them follow a set curriculum or internship program to help interns make meaningful contributions to the company. Internships are a great way to get your foot out of the door and start working in the industry you envision your future in. Many students go on to find full-time jobs at companies they have interned in. Be open, self-motivated and hard-working, and you’ll excel at it.

2. Helping with Family Business

If you have a family business that your parents or sibling own, that’s the best things to do during gap year during Covid. Even if it’s not something you would like to do in the long term, it’s still important to just understand the workings of a professional workplace. In a familiar environment, you’ll get lots to learn if you’re willing to. It is also a great way to make connections in the industry and learn the tricks of the trade.

3. Join an NGO

There’s always goodwill to be done in the world, and working for non-profit organizations is very fulfilling. And the pandemic has made everything more connected. So think of what skills you can contribute. Perhaps you can look online for a school in a developing country where you can teach English to underprivileged children. Or find an old-age home where you can Skype with old and lonely people. Or if you know design or coding, help your local NGO create their website or design their logo or pamphlets!

4. Join an Online Computer Class

Thinking what to do in a gap year at home? There are so many new things to learn, especially in computer science. Some institutes are even offering remote gap year programs. You can learn to make interactive apps, animation, game development – the list is endless. If you’re looking for more up and coming skills, try chatbot courses, machine learning, or robotics.

5. Join a Startup

There’s always a requirement for an extra set of hands at a startup. And if they’re hiring, that means they are promising! At startups, there’s so much to learn, because the key roles are not yet fully defined, and so even someone with no experience or professional degree can make a large contribution. Joining a startup can also be a good idea to understand how entrepreneurship works. This is one of those gap year ideas that may interest to those who would like to one day start their own enterprise.

6. Start a Startup

What better way to learn plenty than by actually doing something? A startup has become somewhat of a buzzword these days. But if you think you have business acumen and a skill-set, a gap year is the perfect time to think about how you can monetize it. Find a product or service that people need, something like a market-gap. And how you can fill it with your existing skills.

7. Write a Book

If you like writing, or have something to share, writing a book is a great idea to fill your gap year with. Writing may not be one of the top gap year ideas on everyone’s minds. But doing so actually develops your writing skills too. It helps you create new ideas, be original and work on your passion. You can share your knowledge about a particular subject, write your story, create a work of fiction, or even curate ideas from people around you.

8. Teach a Class

Remote classes and online classes are the norm these days, and they’re one of the most popular gap year ideas. And this is one of the best gap year jobs for 18 year olds. If you have mastery in a subject, you can start your own class. You can either teach it on Udemy or simply upload your set of tutorial videos on YouTube. To start a class, you’ll need to understand who your target audience will be and create a course-plan accordingly.

9. Join a Hobby Club, Book Club or Literary Society

Working on your field of expertise is one of the best ideas to develop your skills further. If you’re a coder, you can join an coding club online, where you can meet like-minded people and participate in hackathons. If you’re a writer, join a literary society where you can practice writing and get feedback from peers. Can’t find an activity club? Start one! You can easily make a Facebook page and promote it online, and conduct some activities yourself.

10. Join a Career Course or Short-Duration Professional Program

Professional courses for high-schoolers or college students are very popular these days, like Junior MBA programs and career discovery programs. These short-duration courses help give students an insight into a particular career or professional degree program. It can help you choose what you want to do after college, or try out a profession before committing to it. This is one of the best gap year ideas for 18 year olds.

11. Join a Personality Development Course

Join a personality improvement class or etiquette course is also one of the top gap year ideas. These are especially necessary if you’re planning to take up a career that necessitates working with people, such as hotel management or teaching.

12. Get your Story or Paper Published

If you worked on a major project already, you can develop it further to get it published in a peer-reviewed journal. If you’re into art, you can try to exhibit your work in an online gallery. You can contact magazines to consider publishing your story. Thinking what to do during a gap year before medical school? Try to make your first foray into the professional world by researching and writing a paper on your passion-topic.

13. Travel

There are already “Covid-free” places you can travel to, provided your country has lessened travel restrictions. Just be sure to read the travel advisory and take all the necessary precautions. Travel is ne of the best gap year ideas if you need a fulfilling experience. It can give you time to self-reflect, and learn to cope with a new environment.

14. Learn a New Language

A gap year is enough time to complete a beginner’s course or two. You can learn a foreign language from podcasts like Coffee Break French or apps like Duolingo, like Mandarin, Spanish or Arabic. Especially if you’re planning to move to a foreign country, learning a new language can open many doors. Language learning is an effective method to increase cognitive skills, analytical thinking and improve concentration too. Plus it’s a great pastime that you can continue to work on even after the gap year is over.

15. Try a New Off-Screen Skill at Home

Who says gap year ideas have to be complicated or expensive? Try cooking classes, learn a new cuisine. Or baking classes to learn how to make magic with chocolate and cream. Learn to decorate candles or create sculptures with clay. You can learn to make professional doodles or digital cartoons. Wondering what to do in a gap year with no money? Off your computer screen, there are so many other interesting things to try like graphic design, guitar, calligraphy, dance, painting or creative writing. And you can surely find many free classes for these on YouTube.

And here’s an extra idea for your free-time:

16. Read a Book Series

Think about your dream career, and look up the most popular books that professionals have recommended on those topics. Audio books are also a great idea if you want something productive for your down-time instead of watching TV!

So I hope my list gave you many new gap year ideas. I have met different people during the year, some who are doing a lot of productive things with their quarantine time, and others who are just making excuses. So don’t be the latter! Motivate yourself, pick your passion and go for it!

Read next:

Career Planning Tips during Covid: Important Guide for Students’ Success

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