I never thought I was the gap year type. You know the type: people who board planes and jet-set to exotic countries to find themselves; people who want to relax after 4 years of rigorous undergraduate education; people who aren’t me.
Not that those people aren’t amazing. But, let me tell you who I am. I’m a type-A girl who likes her life color-coded, double-spaced, and in Times New Roman font. I know the age that I want to retire (ideally, never). So, I didn’t think I would end up taking a gap year.
Having finished college at a young age, I knew that I was lucky enough to have time on my side. My gap-year goal was to gain experience so that I could be a competitive applicant for grad school to get my PsyD.
In September, I took the GRE after around 3 months of studying. I performed as I expected: better in English than in math, as you can tell by the fact that I am spending my Saturday night writing a blog post.
In October, I had a choice to make. Did I want to make money or did I want neuropsychology experience?
I decided that I would try to balance both.
I started as a trainee for a neuropsychology practicum site. Volunteering at a practicum site helped me determine that I want to be a neuropsychologist, so that was helpful. I also did a 30-hour training course to become a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Textline. During this time, I worked as a caregiver and for my mom’s psychology practice. She taught me how to score psychological tests and let me watch sessions.
In December, I left for a month to Israel. I went to a Jewish school called a seminary.
In January, I narrowed my search down to the two types of jobs that I saw myself doing: neurofeedback technician or case manager. ABA is great because you get firsthand experience with autistic kids, but after landing the job, I realized that it was not for me.
Several times, I came extremely close to getting the job I wanted, but right at the end, when I was about to get employment papers, or when I was told I got the job, some random circumstance got in the way. One employer had a family emergency. Another employer couldn’t take a new team member, and yet another ghosted me. Those were only 3 circumstances that I can recall off the top of my head, but I had many such interviews in the span of a month.
Bottom line, the job search mid-way through my gap year was disheartening and frustrating all at once. Luckily, I am not the type to wallow. In the meantime, I took free evening classes at UCLA, which is where I got my undergraduate degree. I also take free, online Spanish and business courses through the library, which will help me in my career. All you have to do is put in your library card information and you get access to dozens of online classes.
Next week, I have an interview with a neurofeedback company and a screening for a case manager position. Both positions are part-time, and both are what I was looking for!
Psychology students can benefit from networking. If you like this profession, it’s probably because you like people, which makes networking not-so-hard.
I don’t have Premium LinkedIn, so I would literally send invitations to ‘connect’ with people. In 200 words or less, I asked them to get coffee at their convenience so that I could have the privilege of learning about their experiences. One connection led to the coolest opportunity that I had throughout my entire gap year!
I connected with one of the writers for Psychology Today, and he told me that if I wrote an article that he liked, he would submit it to his main editor! He told me that he loves it and that he is confident that it can be published in August.
In sum, here is what I have gained from my gap year so far:
· Grad school benefits: Extended time to take the GRE and apply to PsyD programs.
· Financial benefits: More time to search for scholarships and save money from work. Although finding a job with a bachelor’s degree in psychology (or another health field) is hard, keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to be a doctor, so you just need to earn enough money to finance your education in the meantime.
· Educational benefits: You have access to free classes online and can also take free classes in the evenings.
· Career benefits: I volunteered at a practicum site that taught me a lot about the field of neuropsychology. I also volunteer for the Crisis Textline, which teaches me about therapy and how to help clients in crisis.
It turns out, everyone can be the gap year “type”. All you need is structure, dedication, and a passion for learning as much as possible about your career.