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Small projects for a high-school senior on gap year.
March 8, 2009 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend some projects or self-improvement/self-studying for a high school senior taking a gap year between high school and college?

I am already planning on doing some traveling and working at a job/internship, but I've heard from friends who have taken gap years that doing something for too long gets repetitive and detracts from the experience (especially since, as a high school senior, I will probably be going more for the "experience" of living in the real world rather than doing anything terribly meaningful).

I'm planning on doing a couple of different things for about three-four months at a time, and I expect some down-time in between.

I'd like to do something in that time-- but I'd probably want to put in 3-4 weeks of hard effort, rather than something that stretches out over a year. I'm interested in political science, history, economics-- generally, current events.

What can I do in that kind of time that will be personally meaningful and interesting?
posted by zhang.chuck to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Definitely look at the Center for Interim Studies. I think you have the option to choose from a number of short or long programs, some just lasting for 6 weeks or a semester. I believe there is a lot of variety and it would be well worth it. I had a couple of friends who did programs through them and had excellent and meaningful experiences. You can often get financial aid for programs like these, or if your parents would pay for it that's awesome. There's also this article about the program in the Wall Street Journal, which includes some general comments about gap years.
posted by belau at 12:34 PM on March 8, 2009


Get involved with the local political party you belong to - if you're a Democrat, chances are there's a Be The Change group near you that's doing valuable work in the community.

Find a way to mentor someone with your passions or skills. Is there a local community center for kids your age who are just entering high school?

If you live nearby the ocean or some other outdoorsy environment, see who's out there doing conservation work and ask if you can help out. You'll get great exercise and also do something real for the environment. Not only that, but the people you meet doing this kind of work are fantastic, grounded individuals you can learn good ideas and habits from.

In short, get out there and try to find people of like mind who are making a difference where you live. Then become one of them.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:11 PM on March 8, 2009


For many of the people I know who took gap years, the repetitive nature of just living was the important experience, and is basically what the 'real world' is. It motivated them to think about what they wanted to actually do with the rest of their life. You've just had 12 years of several-month bursts (terms/semesters), and you're about to do it again. Get a job and hold it for the whole year. Work part-time so you are able to do other stuff as well.
posted by jacalata at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish, as a graduating senior, I had just hopped on a bike and ridden across the country. Or to Alaska. Or hiked the AT. Or something other than immediately start college. For some reason, though, it just seemed so important to get a move on. Ironically, I made the same mistake when I started graduate school.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:16 PM on March 8, 2009


I can't tell if you're in the US, but if so AmeriCorps. If not, some other serious commitment to volunteering/service. I did it after graduating from college, but in many ways it is an even better experience fresh out of high school when you don't really know what to do with yourself.

You will get variety that way, in the form of a huge range of work experience, job skills (all programs are required to have a fairly high set number of hours of training), and service. And I've gathered it's likely that our new president is going to restore full funding to it. If you really are opposed to spending a whole year, there are many summer-only programs aimed directly at college students, as well as 3 month and 6 month programs and part-time year long programs.

I know that many college admissions departments would look very favorably on a gap year spent in service. If you decide to do a series of short things--some courses, some travel, some goofing off--do keep in mind that you will be asked about this year and so the commitment you've stated here to self-improvement that year is actually important. Whatever you do, make sure you can show that it wasn't just a year to party before college.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:33 PM on March 8, 2009


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