Want to make a difference? Consider a gap year!
Each year, a number of boys in our graduating class decide not to proceed directly to university study. Instead, they pursue a variety of worthwhile activities, including paid employment, volunteer work, academic study for credit or interest, travel, or athletics.
In Europe, it is very common for students to take a post-graduate or gap year before higher education; this is a pattern that is increasingly prevalent in Ontario as well (especially since the demise of Grade 13). There was much discussion about the value of a gap year in the US last year with the news that President Obama’s daughter would defer her admission to Harvard.
Typically, UCC students who plan such a bridge year have applied to university during their IB2 year, accepted an offer of admission, and then asked for a year’s deferral. Universities are generally happy to approve a thoughtful gap year, as they know such students will be more mature and focused when they arrive on campus.
The key to a successful gap year is careful planning to ensure that the time is spent in a productive, enriching manner. Several highly recommended books that might help you consider some options are the Lonely Planet’s The Gap Year Book, Susan Griffith’s Your Gap Year, and Colleen Kinder’s Delaying the Real World: A Twentysomething’s Guide to Seeking Adventure.
There are a number of well-established programs designed to assist students interested in spending at least part of a gap year doing community service work. For possibilities in Canada, check out Volunteer Canada at www.volunteer.ca. If you are keen to venture further afield, some of our Old Boys have had outstanding experiences with Canada World Youth; investigate their website at www.cwy-jcm.org.
One of the most reputable organizations supporting students seeking a volunteer experience overseas is Lattitude Global Volunteering. It is a not-for-profit organization offering international placements for 17 to 25 year olds. Such placements last from 3.5 to 12 months and may involve an outdoor education, community-building, educational, or environmental focus. For more information, consult the website www.lattitudecanada.org or call 604-569-3160.
Other international programs are available through Youth International at www.youthinternational.org. The York Region Learning Connections program has a wide range of volunteer and internship options in 21 different countries. More information is available at www.projects-abroad.org. Travel Cuts, the agency affiliated with the Canadian Federation of Students, sponsors a number of relevant academic, work and volunteer programs. Check out the following website for more details: http://swap.ca/.
Students who would like to earn additional Ontario credits in an international environment could check out the offerings of the MEI Academy www.meiacademy.com. If you would like to earn university-level credits, you might be intrigued by Class Afloat http://www.classafloat.com/ or the Dragons program https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/.
If you are interested in exploring gap year experiences, you should start your research soon, as many of the applications for next year’s programs are due in the fall. Even if you decide to head directly to university after UCC, you may decide to plan a gap adventure mid-way through or directly after your post-secondary studies.