Welcome back, gap year student! Whether your year was filled with travel, volunteer work, career exploration or maybe just a much-needed a break before diving into four years of grueling college academics, it’s now time to switch gears, and get ready to begin the next four years of education.
Whatever your reason for taking some time before matriculating, it’s important to take a breath and take stock before beginning your first semester!
Reflect and Reset
First things first, it’s important to take some time to process your gap year. Whatever you did with it, this was probably a fairly remarkable period of growth in your life, and you would be surprised at how quickly you lose sight of the important takeaways from the past year. Whether you traveled the world, did some incredible work, or simply stayed home and cherished time for yourself and time with family, you owe it to yourself to do some self-reflection before you jump back into school.
It’s up to you how you do this: maybe you do some journaling, sharing stories and pictures with friends and family, or just take a few moments each day to meditate on your experiences. If you’re tech-savvy, maybe you make a video or put together an artsy slideshow commemorating how you spent your year.
With the reflecting taken care of, let’s talk about reset. Maybe you’re getting over some serious jet lag, or you’ve just been keeping a “looser” schedule, but either way, it will serve you well to readjust to a sleeping and eating schedule that will fit with your classes, or at least make you feel capable of being productive. Say goodbye to days of sleeping until noon. While your college schedule won’t be as rigid as your high school’s 8 am daily start schedule, you will need to be able to manage your time, and good time management usually starts with a regular wake-up call at a reasonable hour. Getting on track with some good habits before the semester starts will save you some stress as you adjust to college life and college academics.
Get your Ducks in a Row
Alright, now that you’re feeling mentally prepared to start your college career, let’s talk about some of the more practical considerations. You’ll need to make sure you have everything you need to start right, which will, of course, include your classic back-to-school shopping list—notebooks, pens, pencils, paper, paperclips, etc., etc.—but you’ll also need some heavier duty gear.
You will be required to have a computer, tablet or some other electronic device capable of completing your written and online assignments. Every college campus will have a computer lab available for students to use, but we highly recommend bringing your own device. Computer labs on campus are often crowded—especially around exam time—and you don’t want to find yourself without access to a device the day before a big assignment is due! If you already have a device that’s great, but double check that it can handle the paces you’ll be putting it through—if you plan to take intro to graphic design, for example, can your current laptop handle the software you’ll be required to use? Remember, it’s much easier to purchase any newly needed technology before the semester begins than halfway through the term! Most companies, including Apple, offer special discounts for students, which can go a long way when you’re looking at a price tag of over $1,000.
Recommended Reading: Managing a Budget in College
Beyond the basics you’ll need to complete your assignments, don’t forget about creature comforts. While most if not all dorm rooms will come equipped with the bare essentials—a bed, a desk and chair, a wardrobe—it will be up to you to fill your space with the things that will make you feel at home. What do you need to create a productive, comfortable space that you can both work and relax in? Some essentials might include a couple sets of sheets, a cozy quilt or duvet, a closet organizer, a laundry basket, and some basic cooking implements, such as a kettle to boil water for that late-night ramen. Ask mom and dad—they’ll probably be able to advise you in this department.
Preparing to return to academics after a gap year can feel intimidating, and starting this next phase of your life will undoubtedly be daunting. Just remember, you took that year off to gain a better understanding of who you are as a person, and we’re sure it paid off. The increased maturity and development that you bring into the classroom will be appreciated by both your professors and your fellow students. You are ready.