Don’t mind the gap (year)
Viraj Sikand got accepted into Brown University while he was studying at Hillcrest School, Nairobi. Like his elder sister, Viraj decided to defer his program by a year to focus on different opportunities. In his gap year, he spent time teaching in and conducting fundraising activities for the Kibera Hamlets programme. Passionate about the environment and wildlife, he also worked on the ‘Save The Elephants’ project in Samburu, Kenya to help improve elephant conservation. Viraj believed that these experiences made him more confident and independent, which made his transition to a college in a new country easier.
Many families are not open to gap years because it places the student a year behind their peers. While a gap year is not right for everyone, the desire to graduate along with your peers should not stop you from pursuing it.
In Viraj’s case, the gap year provided him time to re-evaluate his plans and passions and understand what was important to him without the pressure of coursework. According to Viraj, “If you are able to figure your passion, you will be able to approach college with much more clarity, confidence and focus, and stay true to yourself in the new environment away from home.”
In his opinion, a gap year can be beneficial for students who are certain about their degree or career choice as well. The gap year can help to “take the time to try something new or gain a different perspective – which will either reinforce your initial decision or uncover your true interests and passions.”
Till date, Viraj tries to take ‘gap’ periods before starting any project in his life. Taking time out helps to reflect on his past achievements and evaluate his future goals. Viraj has been accepted into Harvard Business School’s 2+2 MBA program and intends to take three to six months off before starting his MBA program there.
A gap year should not be approached as a ‘year off’. To avoid losing focus on your gap year, Viraj’s philosophy proves to be valuable – “to make a plan, but remain open to changing that plan. Being open to change helps you to seize unexpected opportunities over the course of that year. The Kibera Hamlets program inspired me to support their activities after the end of my gap year.”
Therefore, it is important to research whether your target colleges have deferral programs and if a gap year is possible. If you need help to explore whether a gap year is the right choice for you, do not hesitate to get in touch.