When to Start Planning a Gap Year
Updated: May 25
When is the best time to start planning my gap ear? This is one of the most common questions asked by gappers who are beginning or thinking about taking a gap year.
Well, it’s never too early to start thinking and researching about your gap year, but there are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to planning your gap year. The reality is, every gap year is unique to each gapper, planning is similar - it all depends on your situation and what is right for your journey.
Today, we will go through the advantages of planning early, planning later, and the “OMG I am halfway through my gap year and I do not know what to do” planning!
Early Planning - Spring Time (April/May)
If you are certain that you will be taking a gap year, this is the ideal time to plan!
Contributing to post-secondary conversations: There is always an exciting buzz towards the end of grade 12, most of your classmates and friends are sharing what school and program they will be entering in the fall. As a gapper, when this question comes around to you, not being able to answer may invoke feelings of doubt and worry that you have made a wrong decision. In addition, it can feel isolating because you are doing something so different from your peers. However, if you have concrete plans (joining an organization, taking a program, doing an internship, traveling) will make you feel included and confident that you have made a good decision.
Gap Year/Youth Programs Registration Open: These often include larger and well-funded organizations or even government-subsidized programs that are a fantastic opportunity. However, their registration usually closes in early summer, therefore it is better to get sign up and get your name on their lists instead of getting waitlisted. They may even have an early-bird offer or other scholarships in place that can help with financial needs.
Tapping into bursaries and scholarships: Applying for financial aid early on is best as funds get claimed by others and deadlines pass.
Later Planning - Summer/Early Fall (July-August)
Now, while there are benefits to planning early, maybe waiting is in the best interest of your situation and needs.
Still not 100% committed to taking a gap year: Perhaps you are waiting on post-secondary options that are based on your grades or your ability to defer your entrance. In addition, you still need the time to think about whether or not you need to take a gap year.
Focusing on the present: The end of the year is an extremely chaotic time, and as the final moments of your high school career is coming to an end, focusing on final grades, exams, projects is best. Along with all of the fun events, prom, grad ceremony.
The COVID-19 Rollercoaster: The status of the global pandemic is always changing, and new information is rolling out on a monthly basis. If you are waiting on key announcements like if your school is in person or online, or whether you have the ability to travel domestically/internationally will change your idea of taking a gap year.
OMG Planning - Late Fall/Winter (October - January)
This is the time a lot of panicked gappers call us, saying that they are in their gap year and have not planned adequately. But do not worry, remember, better late than never!
Available programs: Some programs have rolling registration, which means new events begin weekly or monthly that you can participate in.
Give us a call!c: We have the resources available, like our Gap Year Gameplan to help you get back on track, create a plan and make the most of your gap year!
Never too early to start researching: Even though you may not be 100% committed to taking a gap year, it is beneficial to start researching about the potential opportunities and experiences that you are interested in! Writing down when info sessions are happening along with registration deadlines will prevent you from losing out on these experiences.
Reach out even if the deadline passed: If there is a program or opportunity that interested you, but the deadline passed, there is no harm in reaching out and inquiring about a waiting list or about spaces that have opened. Once you come upon a company's radar, you are already one step ahead and may hear about future events sooner!
Understanding cancellation and refund policies: One of the disadvantages of planning early is that programs will ask for a deposit. This becomes a challenge if you are uncertain about your gap year, or if covid throws a curveball. Therefore, always check these policies to be sure what you are getting into.
Rolling registration model: Many programs have this flexible registration model, and keeping a list of such organizations in your back pocket as your safety net and backup plan will help you feel more confident and not let this precious time go to waste.
A Solid Plan for September: One of the best things to do for yourself is having a concrete plan in place for summer. Beginning your gap year journey on a strong note will give you confidence and motivation! For the past 14 years, September has been your new year, starting a new grade, getting into a routine, we want you to feel reassured at the beginning of fall.
How far out should you plan? Here is my rule of thumb, plan concretely for the first 3 months (Sept-Nov), then, for the 3 months after that (Dec-Feb), plan loosely, finally, for (March-onward) dream about your adventures and experiences!
Why should you NOT plan your entire year: Having a plan is amazing and reassuring, but planning those entire 12 months may lock you into something that may not work for you later on. Through a gap year, you will learn so much about yourself, what works for you, what you want, and want you would avoid.
For Example: If someone wants to be a teacher, and they plan out their entire year. They sign up for teaching conferences, volunteer placement, teaching abroad, etc. However, when they come to it, they realize they do not like teaching at all. Well, they have just booked an entire year's worth of experiences and now will have to go through the hassle of cancellations and refunds. Being able to take things one step at a time, will give you the space to say that you like this, you want more of this or less of this - and from their line up the experiences that fit how you want to grow as an individual.
How the Gap Year Gameplan Cohorts work
The Gap Year Gameplan has certain points of registration, thus creating separate cohorts. Our earliest is in the Spring (May). This gives you 4 weeks of a bonus live gap year planning component so that they have plans in place for September and they can be part of those conversations. This is perfect if you are committed to a gap year! Doors close Mid-May and will not reopen until the end of Summer, August.
If you are not sure if the Gap Year Gameplan is for you, make sure to attend the Explore, Dream, and Design workshops! These happen every 2 months and you do not want to miss out, register here!
There are a lot of resources to help you when planning and organizing your gap year. We will be there for you, and to set you up for success for your gap year!!