So I could work two jobs and make $$$, or I could backpack across Iceland...
So you've decided to take a gap year before continuing your education. Now what?
I guess the reasoning influences which path you take. For instance, the gap year could be due to school burnout. Or it could be to improve your resumé before applying to grad schools. Or perhaps you just want a taste of the "real world."
This one is particularly an option for those who just need a break. Visit a new state or a new country. Visit your best friend. Travel solo or go with a group of pals. See the world and realize how much adventure and beauty there is around you.
2. Get a random job
Be a barista. Be a hostess or concierge. Be a babysitter. Work at Barnes and Noble or Anthropologie. Do a random job that is on your bucket list or something that pertains to a hobby of yours. It may be silly, but a gap year is temporary. Why not add a fun job to your resumé.
3. Get a job that pertains to a future career
Or maybe you want to be more practical and start working in your particular field of interest. This is useful in allowing yourself to be immersed in the ins and out of the career to see if you actually want to pursue it.
Now that you don't have school, go out and volunteer in the community. Help out with something you are passionate about. Helping others is not only beneficial to them, it helps you, too.
5. Figure out how to budget
This, you may already do, but now that you aren't in high school/college, your expenses will differ. Food, gas, rent, and other living expenses will change, along with income. Figure out how to live on a budget while also adding some to your savings, too.
6. Research schools
Yeah, you are taking a year off from school, but you can't escape it completely. Look into different schools with your desired programs, comparing locations, costs, classes, application requirements, and more.
7. Build connections
You'll probably need letters of recommendations for future schools. Contact people and build meaningful connections with them, wherever it comes from. Stay in contact with old professors that know your work ethic or former employers. Make sure you keep up with new employers, volunteer overseers, and others, too, during this year so that when you need those recs, you won't be grasping at straws.
This next year is whatever you choose to make it. Don't feel guilty or pressured to do it how everyone else is. You got this!