5 Things You Should Do Before Starting College

While many people attend college right after graduating from high school, this path isn't for everyone. Here are five things you can do before starting college if you're looking to expand your horizons and explore your options.

1. Take a Gap Year

Taking a gap year can be a fantastic way for you to focus on your own development, allow you the time to reflect on your goals or even discover a hidden passion. If you've been feeling burnt out after graduating from high school, taking a gap year is a great way to take some time for yourself and strengthen your confidence, independence and maturity.

A recent study found that 97% of students who took a gap year reported an increase in maturity, while 96% said that they felt more confident in themselves and their abilities. Furthermore, 77% stated that taking a gap year helped them uncover their life purpose. Instead of heading straight to college without evaluating where you truly want to go in life, consider taking a gap year to help you find your footing. Researching the pros and cons of a gap year can help you decide if it's the right option for you.

2. Get a Job

Securing a job before college is beneficial in many ways, as it can help you transition into adulthood as well as provide financial stability. In addition, it can give you a break from academics and help you clear your mind. Going directly from high school to college translates to eight straight years of studying, which can cause you to burn out quickly. In contrast, securing a job will expose you to the real world and teach you important life skills such as independence, collaboration, problem-solving and time management.

Furthermore, getting a job can help you learn more about yourself, such as your strengths and weaknesses. Going directly to college can make it hard for you to achieve this clarity that comes with personal development.

3. Travel Abroad

While not an academic endeavor, traveling abroad is the epitome of higher learning. International travel is a great way to experience new cultures, step out of your comfort zone and better understand and appreciate other people's history and customs. Witnessing a new way of life can be an eye-opening change from your daily routine at home and can help you discover more about yourself in the process.

In addition, the qualities that you'll gain from traveling abroad can be attractive to future employers. A recent survey found that over 60% of Fortune 1000 executives stated that global awareness was either "essential" or "very important" in preparation for a future career. Not only can traveling abroad improve your personal development and broaden your mind, it can also strengthen your resume.

4. Take Adult Education Classes

If you're not sure whether you want to go to college, taking a few adult education classes is a great way to sample college life without taking the full leap. Enrolling in classes from a variety of disciplines can help you discover what you're interested in without having to waste credits in college, and you may even find that you're not interested in attending college and want to take a different career path instead. You can start by looking up local community colleges and finding courses that interest you.

5. Volunteer

On a similar note, volunteering can help you learn more about yourself and your interests while also helping out your community. In addition, you can also hone important skills such as leadership and problem-solving, form lasting connections and put your energy towards a cause that interests you.

Taking some time off before you start college can be a great way to learn more about yourself and those around you. While others may disapprove of the idea of a non-traditional approach to education, these five options before starting college can encourage personal development, making you even more prepared for college and the job market.

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