WHAT ARE YOU DOING AFTER GRADUATION?
Traditionally, we’ve all been taught to follow a similar path: four years of high school followed by graduation then onto another 4 years in college and graduation. Here is where we might find ourselves and those around us going in different directions. Some might choose the graduate school route to further their education. Others may decide that they are finished with school and want to join the workforce right away. However, there is another path less traveled that can be very rewarding if you make the most out of it.
The Gap Year: "A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one's practical, professional, and personal awareness.”
There are many reasons you can choose to take a gap year between furthering your education or joining the workforce. Maybe you’re not sure what you really want to do in your future career or maybe you know what you want but don’t have all the necessary requirements. You might also just need some time to unwind and relax after four years of challenging courses in college. Whatever the reason you decide to take a year off the most important thing is to make the most of it. For this Career Tips installment, we decided to sit down and talk to someone currently taking a gap year after receiving their undergraduate degree.
Why did you decide to take a year off after college graduation?
"I decided to take a year off because my ultimate goal was to go to PA school which is a Masters Program and to get in you have to have a certain number of direct patient hours. In college, I was a student athlete and that took up a lot of my time so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get hours, be a student athlete, and succeed in college. I decided to focus on school and my athletic career since that was paying for my education."
What are you doing during your gap year?
"During my [gap] year off, I came back home to save money because ultimately I’d like to have as little debt as possible. I decided to find a job as a medical scribe because it is a good way to earn hours for PA school while also being in a setting where you can experience a lot of different kinds of medicine. Along with that, I realized I didn’t want to close the door on volleyball since it was such a big part of my life, so I decided to be a coach in the spring. I am also studying and prepping for the GRE since it is a requirement for PA school."
What has taking some time off allowed you to do that you might not have done otherwise?
"Taking time off has allowed me to shadow doctors in different fields which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d gone straight to PA school. It also allowed me to take time to continue coaching volleyball which I couldn’t do if I’d gone straight into a masters program because that would take up majority of my time. I think that is very important for work/life balance practice in the future."
What skills have you learned or developed that will help you further down the line in your career?
"I’ve definitely gained leadership skills through coaching volleyball. It’s completely different as a leader to my peers than being a leader to younger kids because I was a leader as well as a role model so it showed me a different aspect of leadership. With my job as a scribe, I’ve learned time management as well as confidence in myself. You don’t always have someone building you up, you have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. Also, I’ve never had a job before, so this has definitely helped me gain confidence that I have the skills to be successful in the job that I’ve chosen."
Have you learned anything in your Medical Scribe job that you might not have known otherwise?
"If I had gone straight into continuing my education, I would have just said I want to be a Pediatric PA. Being in the emergency room has opened my eyes in the sense that I learned I really like the environment where you see one patient and never know what’s coming and every day is a different challenge. In shadowing people, I’ve learned that being a surgical PA is something that would be cool for me but, I wouldn’t have known any of that if I had gone straight into the Master’s Program."
What do you think has been the most beneficial to you about taking this gap year?
"I think my gap year has been beneficial because people don’t really know what to expect when going into the workforce. I definitely didn’t. I’ve only been doing school and volleyball, so I had no idea what to expect when going into the working world. It’s kind of nice to have that gap of “I did school and I know I want to continue my education but I’m going to take this year and see what the workforce is like and then I know I can continue my education." I learned time management from athletics and school because I was told when and where I needed to be, but taking the year off I have to make my own schedule with the exception of my job. I have to make time for going to the gym and studying for the GRE while also keeping a work/life balance of not just studying and working but also finding time to be with family and friends. I’ve definitely learned a different aspect of time management that I wouldn’t have learned if I’d gone straight to PA school."
Regardless of your reason for taking a gap year, the most important thing is to make sure you have something to show for it. Take on new experiences, explore new places meet new people, and get ready to start the next chapter of your life. Once you're ready to start your job hunt, check out these 6 tips to make sure your prepared to make your best impression!