How taking a gap year in college helped me succeed
When I was in the middle of my second year at college, I left. A combination of things led me to leave the school I had been attending. I wasn’t sure what was going to be next for me, but I knew one thing: I had to make it work for me. I packed my bags and moved home to Ontario. When you’re nineteen-years-old, leaving your friends and newfound college independence behind feels like the end of the world. It turned out, however, that taking a gap year in college helped me succeed more than I would have ever suspected. In hindsight, I’m so grateful for the time spent in transition. Here’s how taking a gap year in college helped me succeed.
Gained work experience in real-world situations
I was determined to make the time spent outside of an undergrad degree work for me. I sent out my (not-really-existent) resume to every relevant internship position I could find in Toronto. My resume at the time looked like this:
Have photographed some friends before
Started a little magazine project like six months ago
Am a really fast typer
Please hire me I’m going to be so bored if you don’t
Surprisingly, I ended up getting an internship that steered my future direction. I spent the first third of my gap year interning with a modeling agency, before moving on to different agency environments. The time spent in these real-world work situations taught me so much that I’d never learn in college. No one teaches you in college how not to be excessively awkward on the phone, for example. You don’t really learn how to conduct yourself in a professional environment at all in college. When I started my gap year, I could barely have a phone conversation.
Beyond that, I took the time in that gap year to figure out more about what I wanted in a career. Maybe I didn’t just want to be a photographer. There were so many more options out there that I’d had no clue about. Being able to test the waters and start shadowing at a diverse array of jobs was a privilege during this time. It led me to develop a more refined curriculum for myself when I returned to an undergrad education.
Had a little side hustle going on
During this gap year, I was also shooting wedding photography. At the time, my prices were like… $600 for a 10 hour day. To teenage me, I’d hit the jackpot. What I didn’t realize at the time, though, was that doing these weddings and photo shoots was keeping me practicing my art. I was honing my craft, and developing skills that would later serve me down the line. Who knew that when I was putting all those little photo shoots together, I was producing? Not me, at the time.
Developed personal projects that led to success
Having that time away from a formal education allowed me to develop personal projects. I’d just started working on Atlas Magazine a few months before I dropped out of college. All that extra time I now had? Atlas time. Olivia and I grew and developed the magazine into something that we’re still so proud of all these years later. Showing the personal initiative of a project like Atlas led me to more opportunities in the future. When I returned to education and moved to New York, internship opportunities opened up. Those I interviewed with were extremely impressed with the development of a personal project like Atlas that aligned with their industry.
Spent time with people I love
One of the best parts of taking a gap year was spending time with people I love. I got to reconnect with some friends from back home. I got to spend an excessive amount of time with our 17-year-old family dog in the last year of her life. What’s not to love about spending a little more time with those you care about?
Ended up somewhere better suited to my needs
In the end, I returned to an undergrad education at a college that was better suited to my needs. I graduated from SVA in New York City, a school that positively impacted me in countless ways. The other school I attended wasn’t a bad school. It just wasn’t the right environment for what I ended up needing in my career. As artists, those needs are different for everyone. Some people need a more technical education, while others need more flexibility to explore career options in the industry.
Was it worth it to return to college?
The short answer: yes, I’m glad that I returned to college in the end. For more on that, I’ve written about whether or not getting a photography BFA degree is worth it.