We’re super excited to share this helpful guide to figuring out your next steps, written by TAP friend, and the founder of Wayfinding Academy. Wayfinding Academy supports Gap Year students by offering a $500 one time scholarship to Gap Year Alumni entering Wayfinding. We think that’s fantastic!
What do you want to do with your life? You’ve probably been asked this question for as long as you can remember. The message that we have been inundated with is education is the key, and a four-year college is the only path to success. As a Gap year participant you’ve already chosen a non-traditional path, and as you ponder what’s next it’s important to realize that college is not the only option.
Who do you aspire to be? What fulfills you? What are your passions? What spikes your curiosity? What brings you joy? When it comes to making decisions about what is next; we don’t spend enough time thinking about the right things and asking the right questions. We often fall into the next thing, when we should actually be making purposeful decisions. Particularly when the next step involves a big time and financial commitment.
There are six steps to making an informed and intentional choice about your next steps.
Step 1: Identify your interests and passions
Maybe these questions can help:
- What issues, causes, organizations, or communities are most important to me?
- What group of people do I have special affinity and love for?
- When I am most energized and focused, what am I working on?
- What do I like so much I would do it for free?
Step 2: Write down a couple things you are considering as next steps
Be general rather than specific, for example, things like working, travel, being in a educational setting with peers, etc.
Step 3: Identify some options
Such as: :
- A four-year college or a community college
- Work in an area of interest to save money for your next step
- Move out of your parent’s house or maybe even move to another town that you have always wanted to check out and see what independent living is like
- Travel and volunteering with an organization like WWOOF International or Workaway
- Do a gap year program and travel with a group
- Create your own uncollege experience and learn a bunch of things on your own
- Go to Wayfinding Academy or another non-traditional college environment designed to create a handcrafted higher education experience for each individual student based on their passions and interests
Step 4: Look at your list and pick the 2-3 things
Take a look at your list and make note of the 2-3 thingsthat you’ve written down that are of most interest to you right now. Write them down so you can do some research and learn more about them.
Step 5: Focus on the why
Choose one of the options you just wrote down, now write out your best explanation in 1-2 sentences about why you chose it, keeping in mind the passions and interests you identified in Step 1.
If you want a self-guided worksheet to help you with the process of digging deep with your why you can find one here.
Step 6: Do some research on the option you have chosen
Does it fit with your values, is it something you are passionate about? It is viable option in terms of finances and timing? Research is key to making an informed and intentional choice. And the most important thing, make sure it is your choice, not someone else’s.
If your research reveals that what you thought might be your next step isn’t a good fit, try researching another one of the options you came up with and see if that one feels better for you. Figuring out your next steps takes some time and work, but making an informed and intentional choice will help you save money and time in the long run. And the good news is you can always change your mind.
I know people in their 40s who have had numerous careers and led fascinating lives and keeping changing and evolving, so what you choose to now is just what you are choosing to do NOW, not what you have to do forever. There are no wrong answers here.
Cheers to living life on purpose!
About the author
Dr. Michelle D. Jones is the Founder, President, and Chief Academic Officer of Wayfinding Academy, a two-year non-traditional college she started in 2015. Wayfinding Academy is at the heart of a movement to revolutionize higher education, to turn it forward, to help people have a life rather than a career and to create community of more engaged citizens. To learn more about Wayfinding Academy visit www.wayfindingacademy.org.