Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I have worked with many clients who are new graduates from high school and college. Many times, they speak to me about their many concerns, stressors, and anxiety about the many questions centering around, “what am I going to do next in my life?” This recent spring, due to the pandemic, that question has become even harder to answer for my college aged clients. Many are considering taking a gap year either in between their school years or taking a year after graduating due to little to no employment opportunities. 

I recently read an article from Fast Company that touched on how to make the most of a gap year given the pandemic, “Taking a gap year due to COVID-19? Here’s how to avoid common pitfalls” by author Stephanie Vozza. 

Below describes Vozza’s key points from her article about how to make the most out of your gap year.

  • Make goals. Make some goals for yourself that is related to a skill or a passion of yours that could help enhance your skill sets that could ideally be put on your resume or related to your declared major in college. For some, this could look like writing your goals down on a piece of paper or buying a planner to help you keep yourself accountable week by week. 
  • Engage with the world. The year of 2020 has brought on a number of stressors, losses, unexplained chaos, and frustration for so many people. One way to help cope with the pandemic during your gap year is by engaging with the world around you, whether that is volunteering for a local food bank, tutoring kids, or writing letters to those you know who are on the front line.  
  • Explore your career interests. If you have the ability to take a year off of school, maybe this is the time to better explore what it is that you would like to have a career in. Maybe your original major was accounting and you now realize you want nothing to do with calculating numbers in your career, but instead you have a passion for plants. Maybe there is an internship or an open job for the local plant store close by your home. 
  • Learn life skills. One thing that most college students don’t take classes on is “adulting’. Rarely do classes teach young adults how to sign their first apartment lease, file their taxes, balance their checkbook, make a reasonable budget, or what it looks like to sign your first job contract. Taking a year off could be that time you dedicate to learning how to “adult” as it can be very overwhelming learning all of those skills at the same time once you graduate school. 
  • Take action. Reflect on what it is that you want to do in your life, and then create some structure around it. For example, maybe you love riding horses and getting involved in social action, but taking your academic classes was taking up all of your free time. You could use this gap year as a time to invest in your hobbies and also expanding your career interests. You could make Tuesday and Thursday your horseback riding days and Monday and Wednesday communicating with people in your community about ways to get involved with social action.
  • Reflect and reassess. Many college students I speak to are burned out from going to school because they have been in school since they were 5 years old. They have little to no motivation to start their first job immediately after graduating due to the constant frenzy they have been in from school, extra curriculars, studying, group project, sports, friend time, family time, and relationship time. They have yet to give themselves a minute to focus on themselves. Using this gap year as a time to slow down to reflect about who you really are, what you really want, and what steps you need to take to get there, is a crucial component in having a productive yet meaningful gap year. If I could personally do my education and career path all over again, I wish I gave myself the time to take a gap year!

If you are currently struggling with anxiety related to taking a gap year, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment. We offer in-person and online counseling in Chicago