If you are thinking about taking a gap year, here are some tips to ensure your time is spent in a productive and fulfilling way.

Volunteering: For socially conscious, community-minded students who have been buried in homework for the last four years, a gap year can provide the ideal opportunity to directly make a difference for those who are less fortunate. Whether you are lending a hand to pre-established organisations or taking the initiative to organise your own effort targeting issues you care about, volunteering can be an excellent resume-builder for young people who may still be short on concrete work experience.

Many students also opt to volunteer abroad, giving them the opportunity to experience different cultures in a meaningful way, develop critical foreign language skills, and forge global networks of friends and peers.

Work experience: Many students, especially in the UAE, go through high school without ever working a job. They learn skills and lessons in school that are theoretically meant to be applied in the workplace, but they don’t get the chance to apply these skills professionally until it is time to apply for summer internships that are only becoming increasingly competitive.

As such, a gap year can be a golden opportunity for students to gain a leg-up on their peers while also internalising valuable lessons about what kinds of work appeal to them, how office workflows function, and how different industries vary. These are valuable experiences for any student deciding what majors or courses they want to pursue in college.

Personal projects: For self-starters, a gap year is a dream come true. Have you always wanted to start your own business? Write your own novel? Code your own app? A gap year is your sandbox, and you can create whatever you want. It takes commitment, discipline, and hard work, but what you accomplish in your gap year can set the course for the rest of your life, revealing passions and interests you didn’t even know you had. There is no “correct” way to do a gap year; ultimately, your gap year is what you make of it.

Peter Davos is founder of Hale Education Group, an education consulting company supporting students who wish to study in the US.

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