03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Gap Year: A Post-Graduation Exploration

My mouse sat blinking in the Google search engine, waiting for me to enter my query.

With a little hesitation, and more amusement at how simple the search words were, I typed in "Harvard grad school."

I quickly bookmarked the school's website, and proceeded to do the same for other schools, exchanging Harvard with "Northwestern, Yale, Cambridge, Berkley" and so on.

With every school's web page that I perused, seeing the long list of grad programs and requirements, I felt a slight unnerving dread that I couldn't really place at the time.

It was the summer before my senior year of college. After three years of lectures and spending several hours and nights churning out essays, it was finally time to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

A couple of weeks later at the first "Life after Undergrad" seminar of the frenzied fall application season, it was more of the same - half-heartedly picking up some brochures, quickly glancing at excited faces on a campus far, far away, and feeling none of the same excited energy I did four years ago in high school in the same position.

Was this how I was supposed to be feeling? I had seemingly done everything right - sailing from high school, I succeeded (though not without difficulty) in getting good grades in my classes, I participated in extracurricular activities, I traveled abroad - naturally, the next step in my education was to move on to graduate programs, the new 'standard' I was told by many professors and professionals in the field, "if you wanted to be taken seriously".

But put simply, it just didn't feel right.

I wasn't feeling the particular draw to a program or school and soon I realized, not very attracted to the idea of doing another couple years of school itself.

That's when an idea that always existed in the back of my mind came right to the forefront.

A year off. Those three words not only held so much possibility, but so much terror as well.

Would it be smart? Would it ruin my momentum? What if I never came back? What would I do? How would it affect me personally? Would I regret it?

It was a little comforting to know at least that I wasn't alone in these questions.

As their last September of undergrad rolls around, many college seniors in campuses around the world are finally faced with decisions about their life, their interests, and ultimately who they aspire to be.

The question becomes more difficult for college grads today as graduate degrees are no longer reserved just for those aspiring to live, learn and teach in the ivory tower.

Graduate degrees have now become the norm for undergrad students to act as a base to launch their careers, with universities branching beyond traditional graduate degrees in eclectic and hot topics that involve a substantial practical component along with the traditional thesis requirement. To illustrate the point, it wasn't so long ago that journalism school wasn't even considered an option - now, many aspiring journalists look to a Masters in Journalism to shore up their skills and job prospects.

However, more and more students amongst Generation Y are opting to take gap years between an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree, and using the time off as an opportunity to explore interests, get job experience, and perhaps realize that the life and career plan that they originally set out for themselves was simply not for them.

After initially being very scared about the idea - after all, I had spent the last sixteen years in school, and school was all I knew - I began to warm up to the idea of beginning a life without the boundaries and comfort of school, at least for a little while.

Though I was perplexed at what I would do for twelve months, the answers soon came very quickly and vividly in my mind - I could travel, I could read, I could write. I could begin a company or take on an odd, quirky job.

Perhaps the root of the problem - that I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life - could be clarified and the experiences in my year off could help begin to develop a clearer conception of my future.

So as of right now, while some of my other friends frantically write their MCATs, wait anxiously in the mail for their LSAT scores and attend graduate fairs, I'm quietly taking a step back and seizing this fresh start before diving into grad school.

It can be scary to know I can end up anywhere, but I think that's also the part that makes this whole journey exciting.

And that's why this blog is here - I hope that you can share in my adventures (and misadventures) as I try to navigate the murky waters of life after undergrad, through job applications, resolving my feelings about the end of my formal education, figuring out my career, life and everything in between.