What to do in a gap year before university
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What to do in a gap year before university

With graduation looming, you just made what could be a life-changing decision – instead of jumping straight into college from high school, you elected to take a gap year before university.

Now comes the hard part – filling the next 365 days with life-changing experiences. Below, we’ll float several possibilities that will help you make the most of this crucial time in your life.

Job shadow various professionals

Too many college students jump into the wrong program to start their post-secondary careers. If you are taking a gap year before university, be sure to use it to figure out what you actually want to study before committing to a specific faculty.

Job shadowing is the perfect way to preview career tracks before training for them. This strategy is commonly used by aspiring pre-med students to figure out which branch of medicine to specialize in, but it can be applied to just about any type of career.

Some universities offer job shadowing programs to gap year students through partnerships with local employers – these experiences last between an hour to an entire week, giving you a glimpse of what to expect when you are out working in the real world.

If these programs aren’t offered in your area, take matters into your own hands and call employers on your own. This involves getting out of your comfort zone, but with a bit of work, we’re confident you’ll be able to arrange several job shadows over the course of your gap year before university.

Volunteer in your community

Dedicate your gap year before university to helping the homeless

Right now, there are people in your town/city in dire need of your help. You don’t need to possess superpowers or superior intellect to make a difference in the lives of the homeless, poor families, or at-risk youth – you just need to show up prepared to learn and follow instructions.

Non-profit organizations have established protocols in place and the know-how to render assistance to the less fortunate, but they often lack the funds to pay for their mission and the manpower to implement it.

While you may not be able to do much about the former, you have the time and the strength to do plenty about the latter. Find causes locally which resonate with you and ask to speak with the volunteer coordinator. They’ll find a slot where you can make the biggest impact – embrace your role and run with it!

Volunteering during your gap year isn’t just about feeling good about yourself and racking up good karma, though – it looks great on your resume and it will give you a head start on building your personal network. For these reasons and others, dedicating your gap year before university to helping those who need it the most is a wonderful way to make use of your time before school.

Travel the world

Some consider traveling the world to be a waste of a gap year – we implore you to not listen to these folks. They equate travel with the booze-soaked experience that defines their occasional escapes to their favorite all-inclusive resort.

While there may be a few nights on the road where you may end up drinking more beers than you originally planned, long-term travel teaches lessons that are hard to come by at home.

From deciphering foreign languages to plotting out transport to exercising patience when your bus is over two hours late (again), you’ll return home from your gap year before university with confidence and life skills that will make you a better, more rounded human being.

Get a job and save money


You'd be surprised what being a barista will teach you in your gap year before university

In case you didn’t get the memo: college is expensive. If you want to go into your first year with a legit financial cushion rather than relying on student loans, swallowing your pride and getting a job is a great gap year strategy.

Do your best to find something at least tangentially related to the field you hope to get into, but really, any employment opportunity will do.

Even the most mundane of roles has something to teach you (even if it serves as motivation to never end up in the said role again), and they all come with a check at the end of each pay period.

Combine it with some volunteer work on the side (see above) and you’ll have a gap year before university that will set you up for success in the future.

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