There is a general expectation that after four years of college, a student will begin full-time traditional employment or enter a graduate program. Yet, it is increasingly more common for graduating seniors to say they are doing a year or two of service. Some describe this as “a gap year”. But a gap connotes unfilled space or a break in continuity. I see a year of service as a “launch” not a gap.
A launch sets something into motion. One or more years of dedicated service initiates a journey of self-exploration, relationship building, and growth. It is a time to apply the classroom knowledge and soft skills developed over years of education. It is also a time to embrace the opportunity to learn by doing. A year of service is active, engaged, and anything but empty.
Some students fear that if they engage in a year or two of service their career paths or graduate school dreams will be disrupted. Having engaged in a year of service, I can attest to how my experience made me a strong candidate for employment and opened my eyes to graduate school opportunities that I would not have considered previously. My year of service enhanced my global perspective, helped me build life-long friendships, and provided me an opportunity for practical experience that would have been difficult to gain in a traditional employment opportunity.
I have never regretted my decision to serve one year after my undergraduate degree. In fact, I would recommend it to both those who are certain and uncertain of their next steps. To those of you who are certain, I encourage you to take some time to hone different skills, explore new areas of interest, and learn alongside a community. To those who are uncertain, I encourage you to lean into the uncertainty and allow your year of service to be a scavenger hunt of learning that leads to your next steps. Work on projects you would have never considered. Talk to people about their career or graduate school paths. Build relationships with the people around you.
There are many service opportunities through reputable organizations. If you are considering a year or two of service, I recommend you attend the Day in the Life of Service panel on September 14, 2017 from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm in Homer Babbage Library (HBL) Class of 1947 Conference Room. At the event you can hear what it is like to serve with AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Teach for America, City Year and Service Year. You can speak to recruiters from the various organizations and get all your application questions answered. All students are welcome. Please join us and bring your friends along too.
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