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  • Writer's pictureAlmeera Eman

The 3 Most Challenging Times of Year for Gappers

Taking a gap year can be a roller coaster of emotion and experiences. It's full of highs and lows, and each experience gives the gapper so many opportunities to learn and grow.

In today’s episode, Michelle explores the 3 key times during the gap year process where gappers really struggle, when you can expect to have these challenges, what you can do to reduce the strain along with sharing a ton of amazing CanGap resources that will support your young person!

Take a listen!

Topics Discussed

  • Tips to overcome the top 3 most challenging times of a gap year

  • What CanGap resources you can tap into to provide support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Connect With The Canadian Gap Year Association


Michelle Dittmer - 00:00

Taking a gap year is often a roller coaster of emotion and experiences. It's full of highs and lows, and each experience gives the gapper so many opportunities to learn and grow.

But I know that there are three key times during the gap year process where gappers really struggle. In this episode, I'm going to dive into when you can expect to have these challenges and what you can do to reduce the strain. So take a listen!

Michelle Dittmer - 01:21

Hey there and welcome to the Gap Your Podcast. My name is Michelle Dittmer and I am your host and Gap Your Expert.

We at CanGap support gappers and their families year round and that doesn't just include the Gap Year - Year itself but also before and afterwards. And in doing this work supporting the pre -during and post gap year experience, I've been able to narrow down and pinpoint the three most common times our young people struggle on their gap year journey.

And through coaching conversations with all of these incredible young people, they've been able to explain why these moments are so, so challenging.

And I really wanted to share those learnings with you to give you insight into what's happening for your kid during these periods and how we can make that process a little bit easier.

The last couple episodes we've talked about a whole bunch of parenting techniques and they are really helpful. So if you have not already, please go back and check out the last couple of episodes. They've got such gold hidden, not hidden, blatantly in them that is going to help you on your parenting journey, whether your kid is committed to a gap, you're still exploring it or even if they're not.

So those episodes are definitely going to help you. And I highly recommend that you subscribe to our podcast so you don't miss when we release new episodes because this content is coming from us to you to make your life and your kid's life a lot easier.

So subscribe wherever you're listening, Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, make sure you like and subscribe to this so you get this directly every single time we release an episode. But let's jump in!

Michelle Dittmer - 03:15

So most gappers usually decide or commit to their gap year, usually in the springtime. So if they're thinking of a gap year, that's usually when they're coming to terms with it and really kind of committing to it mentally and actually when they're looking at their acceptances that are coming in.

But this springtime, this May and June timeframe is when conversations with their peers shift to where people are getting accepted and where people are going to be going the following year and to really understand the importance of that peer connection, go back and check out those parenting podcasts around the Teen Brain Science will link to that in the show notes. But why that peer involvement, that peer acceptance is so important for our teenage young people.

So with these conversations shifting to where people are going next year, this is a very exciting time. And everybody is full of excitement about all these notices that are coming in and the decisions they're going to make that's going to affect their future. And people who've committed to a gap year can feel a little bit left out of this conversation if they don't have a plan, or if they don't have something that they are thinking of doing on their gap year, something to look forward to, this can be a really, really challenging time.

Now, they don't necessarily have to have a 12 month plan set in stone deposits down everything plan minute by minute, but just something they're looking forward to and they can insert into these conversations. So when somebody comes, I've accepted at Queens, I'm so excited. Your young person can say, that's great, Congratulations!

I'm planning on going to Australia, or I'm going to cooking school, or I'm going to design an app, or I'm going to cycle across my province, whatever that is, having something to contribute to that conversation keeps them involved with their peers.

We don't want them pulling back or feeling isolated in their last couple months of school. This is supposed to be a celebration of their accomplishments in high school with grad and prom.We want them to remain feeling connected. So having something on the docket, something on the calendar that they have lined up will alleviate so much stress and the feelings of doubt and isolation that can creep up at this time.

If you need support with this, I highly recommend you jump into our 4-Step Gap Year Planner. It will give you all the tools that you need in order to put together a plan. So it will take you down to the nitty gritty, but in these spring months, even just having those goals and some general ideas can be so helpful. So check out our gap year planner can be really, really helpful tool at this time of year.

Michelle Dittmer - 06:17

So I said there were three. So we've got that spring period where everybody's accepting their universities.

The second time is quite similar in terms of theme, but it's the end of August and beginning of September when that FOMO hits really hard, the fear of missing out.

Because they're going to start seeing their friends heading off to school, making new friends posting their fresh week experience on Instagram or TikTok. And this is when that doubt can really, really seep in like they're feeling like they're being left behind that they're missing out on something. And this is a very natural feeling. And I would say almost every gapper has those strong feelings of doubts just saying, Oh, I messed up. I'm missing such an incredible opportunity.

So those feelings are very real and there's nothing we can do to prevent that, but we can offset it a little bit. We can offset it by setting up something special in September.

That's going to give them their own unique experience or that own thing to brag about or to post on social media or something that's going to distract them from all of their friends having these experiences. While they sit in their basement doing nothing.

So this could be a new job, a change in routine, maybe a weekend camping trip.

It doesn't have to be something giant, but something that's special for them that they're looking forward to that perhaps may start to get them connected with this new way of life, this gap year experience that is going to come very rapidly because this

is the very, very first September in their memory that they are not returning to school.

And this is why we at CanGap, we created the gap year, Frosh Week.

So this is a virtual and this year we're going to try and do some in person components, Frosh Week experience. It is an event to kick off their gap year to act as that pivot point that moves away from the summertime experience into, no, this is the start of my gap year. This is the start of something really amazing. It gives them that unique experience just for them and connects them with other people from across the country and sometimes around the world that are experiencing the exact same thing.

And so they're able to make new friends and not feel so lonely and don't feel like they're the only person in the world that's going through this experience. So it's such an amazing opportunity to come together to attend workshops, but to meet other people.

And if you are interested in learning more, you can go to, get on the list for next year. Coming up in September, we'll be posting more details about that soon, but something like Gap Your Frosh Week can be really awesome to alleviate that end of August beginning of September Blah feeling.

Michelle Dittmer - 06:17

Now, the last time that is very common for folks to feel a bit challenged is those winter blues. So December, January, February, this is often when our gappers are starting to maybe feel a little bit unmotivated. Some of that Gap Your Magic has worn off. Maybe they feel like they've lost their Mojo. Maybe they did everything on their list already. And now they've got this big blank space in front of them and they don't know how to fill that time. Or maybe they haven't done anything and they can't get any traction. Or perhaps they have this sensation that their gap year is half over and they've wasted it. Or they don't know what they're going to do. It's going to feel like, why am I going to try anything right now?

The gap year is half over when in fact it's only a third over. There's still two thirds of the year left to experience. Maybe our young people never ever got traction in that fall and they want to finally anchor on something and move forward. So often in those winter months, gappers need some sort of reboot. Maybe it is an experience that gets inserted. Maybe they've been saving up for a trip that could happen during these months. Maybe it is a shift in job. Maybe they got to try something else.

Maybe they need to simply sit down and reevaluate their goals that they set for their gap year. Either updating the old ones or making complete new ones. And they need to probably shift the plan that they had in their head and definitely shift their attitude.

We've got lots of time left in our gap year at this point and there's still lots of opportunity for growth and fun and excitement. Now we know that winter is hard in Canada for everyone with the shorter days and we get those winter blues.

And this lull can be really, really challenging for those kids on a gap year.

And that's why we adapt our programming to make sure that we have something available for them. So we do have a February intake for our Gap Year Accelerator Program and we have gap year reboot coaching packages to really help people through this challenging time and get over that hurdle so that they can start to move themselves forward again. And make the most of the new year and everything that happens during that time.

So there's lots of time to shift gears at this point. And if there's a way that we can support and help in that, that's what we are all about because we want to make sure that your kid has the best gap year possible. And so we create tools to make that happen.

Michelle Dittmer - 12:13

Now, sometimes as parents, we see these moments of stress and we can default to that thought process of “what they have to be stressed about? They're taking the year off” and I'm doing off in quotation marks here. But really, our young people have a lot on their minds and being able to be aware of these three challenging times of their gap year can be really helpful and allows you to be a little bit more sympathetic to them.

And that can go a long way with our young people being able to navigate these challenges. And it allows them to go through them with more ease with more confidence. And even when we are sympathetic to it and we can see these times coming and be prepared to support our young people, it can really strengthen our relationship with them.

Michelle Dittmer - 13:10

So those are the really three times. So if we're thinking about it, that May, June timeframe, when everybody is talking about where they're going next year, that's end of August, beginning of September move out period. And then those winter blues.

Those are the three times where you as a parent can step in and provide support or just have an awareness that this is a normal progression of emotions and challenges and the ebbs and flows of motivation during a gap year.

So if that can be helpful to you, that's what we're here for. If you need other help, maybe you're experiencing these exact challenges, or maybe you're experiencing something completely different, please reach out and book a call with us.

Happy, happy to give you resources and tools and things that you need so that you can be prepared for what this upcoming year might hold. It will be a roller coaster in the most amazing way.

Just so you know, all of this is completely normal and we want to be here to help you on that journey. So with this short podcast, I hope we're able to give you some tips and tricks of things to look for and how to better support your young person on their gap year.

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