Career Exploration Activities for Students and Recent Graduates
- Career Exploration is discovering and learning more about occupations you are attracted to.
- Career Exploration is researching careers, jobs, college majors, and graduate programs.
- Career Exploration is taking assessments to learn about your interests, personality and aptitudes.
- Career Exploration is identifying your values, what is important to you about the work you want to do.
- Career Exploration is determining the skills and education you need to begin your career.
- Career Exploration is experiencing Student Career Programs Jobs, Internships, and Apprenticeships.
- Career Exploration is building your self-confidence by making a plan and taking action.
Gap Year Programs
A gap year is a period of time when students take a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, intern, work, perform research or any combination of these activities. A gap year can also be called an interim year, deferring college, an overseas experience or taking time out.
What is a gap year? Most frequently, gap year refers to a year that students take off between high school and starting their college experience, to gain experience, mature, save money, or just take a break. However, people can also take a year or two after college graduation, prior to entering graduate or professional school (including medical school), or between master’s and doctoral studies. The purpose can vary—maybe you want to try something different before focusing on your chosen career, maybe you’re not quite sure what you want to go to graduate school for and want to take some time in the field to get experience, maybe, again, you just need an academic break. It’s important that you have a defined goal for this time, even if it’s “I want to travel”, so you can make intentional use of the time and tell future admissions offices and employers what you gained.
There are several motivations and options for a gap year. Sometimes students need to improve your grades or complete a pre-requisite for medical or professional school applications and choose to explore post-bac programs to gain this experience. If money is a consideration (and let’s be honest, that’s most of us), working can give you great professional experience and help you save money. Also, if a company thinks you do good work and sees the benefit of you furthering your academic experience, they may pay for your graduate school, especially in STEM fields, so that year of industry experience can really pay off. College bridge programs might be another alternative, if you’re coming out of high school and want to get more academic preparation and structure in your first year(s) at college.
While the best use of a gap year, whether just leaving high school or after college, is probably gaining work or academic experience, sometimes, the growth, world view and perspective gained from traveling or pursuing a passion can be just as fulfilling and useful. Consider opportunities to travel, volunteer within your community or anywhere in the world, or pursue a personal interest like writing, photography, or coding.
How do you know if a gap year (or years) is right for you? First of all, make sure you think through the process given your individual situation. Consider impacts on college acceptances, visas, insurance, course planning, and financial aid or scholarships. Have a plan for funding your time and budget well. Choose an opportunity that you really think is valuable to you and your future.
Options to pursue, are almost unlimited no matter what your ideal gap year looks like. Some of these experiences may require you to have a college degree before applying, but many of them are available to high school students and above. Deadlines vary, so think ahead and do your research on what types of things you’d like to apply to and when you need to apply by. There are also many “pay to play” type experiences out there which can be a valuable use of your gap year, be sure to research and verify them prior to applying.