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Post-Graduation Blues? Give Students a Jump Start With a Gap Year

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About This Lesson

As the end of the school year looms, many students will begin asking their instructors for advice on how to navigate the world as newly minted graduates. Whether the students are high school seniors pondering life before starting college, or college students thinking about taking on graduate school, teachers will be asked to give advice on post-graduation programs. Knowing about some of the best gap year programs currently available can help educators share information with their students so that they can make informed decisions. Here are some of the best programs that teachers can recommend.

Volunteering

There is perhaps no better way to spend time after graduating than to give back to the community. If students are financially able to do so, spending a year volunteering makes great sense, as it not only eases the graduate into their fields, but also provides valuable resume experience. AmeriCorps is a volunteer-based program with service opportunities generally lasting from three months to a year. Volunteers are also given stipends and are eligible for education awards to assist with paying for college or paying off student loans. Each year, hundreds of thousands of new graduates take part in this program, where they serve in low-income communities in fields ranging from education, to wildlife projects, to health programs.

AmeriCorps is just one of many volunteer programs available to students considering a gap year. Other well-respected organizations include the Peace Corps, where college graduates are placed overseas, and the UN Volunteers program, where students interested in policy, government, international relations, and related fields can learn alongside experts with experience.

Students can also look into local, home-based volunteer options related to their field of study. Local parks and recreation offices often have volunteer positions, as do schools, community centers, libraries, and local politicians' offices.

Travel

While students with means still travel to Europe to take advantage of the Eurail Youth Pass and the vast hostel system, where a bed for a night can cost as little as a few euros, there are myriad cheaper opportunities closer to home. Student passes are available on Amtrak, which also offers discounted rail passes good for 15, 20, or 45 days. U.S. hostels are peppered across major cities, and students taking a gap year may not have another chance to explore their home country.

Many tour companies also offer travel packages geared toward students' personal interests. Some countries offer government-funded tours to those looking to make connections in business and trade. Students can be guided to their local chamber of commerce to see what government-sponsored travel is coming up, and make plans to learn about opportunities in various industries.

Fellowships

For students who want to dive right into their fields, applying for a fellowship is a great choice. Yale University has a well-researched list of recommended programs available to new graduates, with opportunities at the American Bar Association and the ACLU, in addition to fellowships in farming, medicine, media, and government. Not only is this valuable, prestigious experience, but it's also one of the best ways for a new graduate to gain contacts with future employers and gather more information to make a decision on their areas of passion when it comes time to choose a well-defined career path.

Students who are graduating from high school or college may be overwhelmed by the opportunities available to them, may not know about these opportunities, or may be intimidated by perceived costs associated with taking a gap year. Educators can facilitate students' own research into gap years by providing sound advice, pointing students in the right direction, and offering support to students who need to complete applications in order to be accepted into a gap year program. This may be a teacher's last chance to help that one student who has proved to be a scholar, and it's a chance for both teacher and student to shine.

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