The Gapper Series: Unschooling & a Mid-Gap Year Reflection with Carol Xu

Carol Xu didn’t know if taking a gap year would be the right decision, but she did it anyway and has no regrets looking back. In this episode, Carol shares how and why she decided to take a gap year, what she’s been up to and what she’s learned so far.



Carol knew she wanted to take a gap year in grade eight when she discovered alternative education like Sudbury schools. In her research, she also discovered the gap year as an alternative path to take from pursuing traditional education in post-secondary.


Her parents weren’t on board at first, but luckily she had lots of time to convince them with the statistics she found on the benefits of taking a gap year, which included:


  • Students who take a gap year are more mature and have more life skills entering university

  • They get better grades, and

  • They complete their program faster than other students


With her parents’ support, she applied to software engineering at Waterloo University and submitted her deferral application, where she had to outline her gap year plans.


So far, Carol has spent her gap year working on passion projects she’s always wanted to do but never had the time to because she was so focused on her academics in highschool.


  • She completed machine learning certification courses,

  • She started rock climbing,

  • She got a singing coach to improve her singing skills,

  • She started writing again, which was a passion of hers as a kid, and

  • She started tutoring as her part-time job


Carol shared that one of her biggest obstacles was the anxiety she had when she was deciding whether to take a gap year or go to university. She was scared that taking a gap year might be a waste of time and she would miss out while her friends went to university. She was scared, but she committed to taking a gap year anyways. Looking back, she said she made the right decision.


Here’s some advice she wants to share with other students who are thinking of taking a gap year:


  • Taking a gap year isn’t as scary as you think

  • From her friends who went to university, she learned a majority of students are older and have taken time off before pursuing post-secondary education

  • You will surprise yourself with how productive you can be with the free time you have

  • It’s easy to be lonely, but it’s also easy to reach out to people

  • Letting yourself do nothing can lead to authentic productivity

  • Lead your life at your own pace


Check out the Gap Year Planning Toolkit to guide you through your year off

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647.821.7060

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