Gap Year Planning

What is a gap year — and what does it mean to take one? For many high school graduates, it’s a chance to explore options and expand horizons in the year before starting college. Whether studying language and culture abroad, volunteering with service organizations, or choosing an academic path, gap year students gain valuable perspective as they take a well-earned break. A time-honored tradition throughout the U.K., the term was introduced to the U.S. when Prince William and Prince Harry decided to take a gap year before college nearly a decade ago. More recently, Malia Obama helped popularize the practice when she announced that she’d be taking a year off before attending Harvard. According to the American Gap Association (AGA), roughly 30,000-40,000 U.S. students take a gap year annually, and that number is increasing every year.

30,000-40,000 U.S. students take a gap year annually

The benefits of taking a gap year, experts suggest, are numerous. Those who spend their year volunteering, living abroad, or working with political organizations are more likely to enter college with a strong sense of academic and civic purpose. According to the AGA, students who have completed structured gap year programs demonstrate significantly higher grade point averages than those who entered college directly after high school. High-achieving students explore and develop their academic interests without pressure through non-competitive study and service programs. In addition to avoiding burnout, they gain a greater understanding of their chosen field — and develop a clearer plan for the future. For college-bound students who are unsure of the academic path they want to pursue, a gap year offers the chance to refine goals and develop new interests through cultural and intellectual exploration.


Should I Take a Gap Year Before College?

Is taking a gap year the right choice for you? Taking time off between high school and college can be beneficial for many students, but it’s not necessarily the best course of action for everyone. If you’re thinking of taking a gap year, there are several factors to consider before making a final decision.

Research suggests that the students who benefit most from their experiences are those who leave with a financial plan and return with an academic one. Recent graduates with concrete plans for the future tend to get the most out of a gap year, and particularly when they spend it enrolled in an enriching, structured program. Funding is also crucial to gap year success. Careful budgeting can help you avoid many unpleasant financial surprises, but the costs of travel, tuition, and other fees tend to add up quickly. Carefully consider if your plans are compatible with your budget.

In addition to the financial and academic aspects, it’s important to consider your own motivations and learning style. Do you get burned out easily, and need some time to recharge after your high school experience, or are you ready to get an early start on college-level material? While many students who take a gap year report a stronger sense of motivation and purpose during their first year of college, other studies show that gap year participants are less likely to finish their degrees. Taking time off from school can be rewarding to some and distracting to others, and it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a decision.

What Should I do During a Gap Year?

Students who choose to take a gap year do so for a variety of reasons. Many are motivated by the desire to travel, while others just need a break.

Some of the most commonly cited reasons students choose take a gap year include:


Planning Your Gap Year

Do you like the idea of taking a gap year but are you still unsure if it’s the right choice for you? Before making any plans, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions:

Do I have a plan for college after my gap year?

Do you know what field of study you’ll pursue, and if so, will a gap year prepare you for it? If not, will taking a year off help you choose an academic path?

How long will my gap year actually be?

Can you afford a year-long program or excursion? With programs ranging in length from two weeks to a full year, many students choose shorter programs that offer extra time to work or prepare for college.

Do I want to travel?

Taking a gap year abroad can be costly, complicated, and even intimidating for some. Which options are you most comfortable with, and which are most affordable for you and your family?

What do I want to do?

What kind of goals do you have for your gap year? Do you want to get a jump start on college or a career, help the less fortunate, hone athletic skills, or work to save up money for college?

Do I want to go through a program?

Programs offer stability, structure, and sometimes college credit. But they can also be expensive. Can you achieve your gap year goals and cut costs by planning your own itinerary?

Gap Year Programs and Organizations

If you’re considering traveling abroad, volunteer work, completing an internship, or any combination of the three, numerous gap year programs are available to help you make the most of your year. Below are a few organizations, events, and programs that provide recent graduates opportunities to expand their horizons through service and study.

  • American Gap Association Founded in 2012, this nonprofit organization is recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission as the premier accreditor for gap year programs. In addition to setting standards for programs across the country, the AGA promotes awareness of gap years by providing universities, school counselors, parents, and students with up-to-date program information and statistics.
  • USA Gap Year Fairs This annual circuit of 39 events is designed to introduce American high school students to the gap year option. Each fair includes guest speakers, advisors, and numerous exhibitors representing gap year programs of every kind. Interested students who are unable to attend a fair can research programs through the organization’s GapMatcher app, which generates ranked lists of gap year programs geared toward their interests and goals.

Academic Programs

American University Gap Year Program

Overview: Designed for students interested in business and politics, this immersive pre-college program lets participants experience what it’s like to live and work in Washington, D.C. By completing two college courses and an internship, students develop valuable academic and professional skills as they experience life on a college campus. A mentored field practicum helps participants identify key skills and theories in their respective areas of interest.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $10,682, plus additional fees
  • Participants earn seven college credits upon program completion
  • Students select an internship from over 3,000 contacts
  • Accredited by the AGA
Financial Aid Available? Payment plan

EF International Language Centers

Overview: EF’s immersion programs combine intensive language instruction with the excitement of studying abroad. Six-, nine-, and 11-month programs begin multiple times a year, allowing students to customize their language learning experience as they earn college credits for all intensive courses. Through this year-long multi-language program, participants can gain fluency in two or three languages as they travel. EF also offers a university preparation program in partnership with several renowned German-speaking institutions.
Program Highlights:
  • Study abroad options are available in eight countries
  • Cost varies according to program, destination, and course duration
Financial Aid Available? None

Academy at Watkinson

Overview: If you’re a recent high school graduate and unsure of what your next step will be, you’ll feel at home in the Watkinson School’s postgraduate Academy program. This year-long program is specially designed for students who are academically gifted, but may need to develop further in one or more areas before attending college. Advisers help participants create a plan that addresses areas of weakness and celebrates strengths, building academic, social, and organizational skills through coursework and internships.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $39,900
  • Students develop a personal portfolio of strengths and weaknesses
  • Exciting on- and off-campus weekend activities include athletic events and trips to Boston and New York City
Financial Aid Available? Via direct grants

Internship Programs

KIVU Gap Year

Overview: This Christian program provides the ultimate internship experience through travel and cultural immersion. Both domestic and international programs offer participants the chance to serve in-need communities and build a deeper understanding of their own beliefs as they explore the natural world. Over the course of 33 weeks, students develop essential leadership skills that benefit them throughout their future.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $36,500, plus fees and travel costs
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Includes destinations on four continents
  • Students may earn up to 900 volunteer internship hours and 9 college credits
Financial Aid Available? Contact for details

Global Routes

Overview: Recognized as one of the most respected gap year programs in the field, Global Routes combines language immersion, travel, and community service in one exciting package. Participants gain life experience and language skills as they positively impact children in rural and impoverished regions. Teaching internship programs in Nepal, Ecuador, Galapagos, Panama, and Costa Rica provide high school graduates with a head start on an academic career in education. This program requires no prior teaching experience.
Program Highlights:
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Certification in Food Literacy Education available
  • Homestay lodging builds cultural literacy
Financial Aid Available? None

Amigos De Las Americas

Overview: This Latin America-based program offers an immersive internship experience through homestay, volunteer work, and service projects. Students work directly with local youth groups to develop sustainable projects and initiatives that offer communities lasting benefits. Offering a balance of independence and assistance, the program allows students to gain hands-on work experience and valuable leadership skills.
Program Highlights:
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Choose from destinations in Ecuador or Nicaragua
  • Tuition varies according to program duration and destination
Financial Aid Available? Apply directly


Overview: Whether you’re interested in one career path or you’re still figuring it out, Dynamy has a program for everyone. Internships in everything from animal care to science to law let recent graduates explore a range of professional and academic possibilities as they gain work experience. Based in Worcester, Massachusetts, Dynamy partners with local businesses and organizations to offer participants a dynamic pre-college experience.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $29,400 (two semester option)
  • Includes Adventure Challenge outdoor events
  • Earn up to 12 college credits
Financial Aid Available? Apply directly

Service/Volunteer Programs

Camps International

Overview: No matter what field you’re interested in — or even if you’re not sure — there’s a gap year program that fits you at Camps International. Spend two weeks to three months volunteering in South America, Africa, or Asia, and gain valuable cultural and academic experience as you change lives. In addition to general volunteer programs, Camps International offers specialized itineraries for students seeking opportunities in particular fields or disciplines.
Program Highlights:
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Tuition varies according to program duration and destination
  • Specialized programs include indigenous law, conservation, agriculture, healthcare, education, and design
Financial Aid Available? None

Pacific Discovery

Overview: Blending ecotourism, leadership development, language immersion, and education, Pacific Discovery programs offer exciting opportunities to learn through experience. Each 10-week program can be completed independently, or combined with others for a full year of unparalleled adventure. Participants develop language skills and build meaningful relationships with locals through service learning, conservation, and permaculture projects.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $10,500-$10,750
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Destinations include Central and South America, Nepal and Tibet, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand and Australia
  • Earn college credit
Financial Aid Available? Apply for scholarships and financial aid here

Rustic Pathways

Overview: Rustic Pathways offers three types of semester-long gap year programs: language immersion, internships, and service and exploration. Each program is designed to help students develop competency in their chosen field, or discover a fulfilling area of study through travel and experiential learning. Areas of concentration include conservation, Spanish language immersion, English language instruction, and survival skills.
Program Highlights:
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Tuition varies according to destination
  • Choose from numerous destinations in Latin America, the South Pacific, Asia, and Africa
Financial Aid Available? Apply directly

Thinking Beyond Borders

Overview: Offering a truly global experience, this program lets participants experience six countries in only seven months. Students gain hands-on service experience and valuable insight into topics in conservation and health as they visit Guatemala, India, Cambodia, Ghana, and Morocco. 13-week gap year programs are also available in Asia and Latin America. By working with local experts, participants develop solutions to the problems affecting many of the communities they visit.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition varies according to program
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Curriculum includes intensive language study for each destination
Financial Aid Available? Apply directly

The Leap

Overview: This UK-based organization offers a wide variety of volunteer programs and internships in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, and South America. Combining service projects with a spirit of adventure, volunteer programs allow students to explore broad or highly specific areas of interest. Those with academic or career goals in mind may benefit from one of many global internship programs in healthcare, education, construction, or conservation.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition varies according to program and destination
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Volunteering opportunities include wildlife conservation, teaching, and indigenous advocacy
Financial Aid Available? None

AmeriCorps NCCC

Overview: AmeriCorps offers multiple opportunities for gap year students seeking intensive service positions, allowing members to build invaluable leadership and team-building skills as they earn money for their education. AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is a 10-month-long program with two service tracks: the Traditional Corps and the FEMA Corps. Service members of the Traditional Corps travel regionally and work with various organizations to help strengthen local communities. Those serving in the FEMA Corps build professional skills in a field or office setting, working directly with FEMA to assist with disaster response and relief efforts.
Program Highlights:
  • Corps members are given a $4,000 living allowance, housing, meals, and $5,815 education award, among other benefits
  • Members are assigned to campuses in either Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Baltimore, MD; Vicksburg, MS; or Vinton, IA
  • Members who complete their program are eligible to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
Financial Aid Available? Visit AmeriCorps site for more details

Culture Immersion Programs

Cross-Cultural Solutions

Overview: Visit one continent, or three, or customize your gap year experience with these cultural immersion programs! Along with immersion programs in Latin America and Africa, Cross-Cultural Solutions offers the chance to choose your own adventure in nine different locations. With over 200 start dates year-round, students can select the volunteer opportunity that best fits their interests and goals.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition varies according to program and destination
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Global Gap Year destinations include Peru, Ghana, and India
  • Internships may provide academic credit
Financial Aid Available? None

Where There Be Dragons

Overview: High school graduates with well-defined academic interests will benefit immensely from these highly-structured cultural immersion programs. Students interested in language, religion, politics, and social science can explore specialized topics and gain insight into other cultures through travel and service. Gap year participants have the option of taking for-credit courses in addition to the program of their choice.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition varies according to program and destination
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Destinations include Madagascar, Indonesia, Peru, and Jordan
Financial Aid Available? Scholarships available

Thinking Beyond Borders

Overview: Along with volunteer programs, Thinking Beyond Borders offers a 13-week Spanish language immersion program consisting of homestays in Ecuador, Peru, and Guatemala. By assisting local educators and sustainability experts, participants sharpen their Spanish language skills as they help improve living conditions in Central and South America. The program culminates in Washington, D.C., where students synthesize their knowledge and skills in a final project.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $13,000, plus airfare
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Enrichment activities include hikes to Machu Picchu and Pacaya Volcano
Financial Aid Available? Apply directly

Carpe Diem Education

Overview: Carpe Diem has built a reputation for offering accessible, affordable gap year programs that prepare students for bright futures. Combining a strong curriculum with experiential learning and cultural immersion, each year-long or 12-week program offers an exciting chance to earn up to 36 college credits in exotic locales. Students build practical skills through a diverse range of activities, from building construction to scuba diving.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition varies according to program
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • Choose from destinations on five continents
Financial Aid Available? Extensive funding is available through grants, scholarships, and loans.

Adventure/Outdoor Programs

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

Overview: Ideal for recent grads interested in conservation or wilderness education, NOLS offers challenging year- or semester-long experiences in a variety of natural settings. With destinations ranging from Alaska to the Himalayas, programs are designed to teach crucial survival and outdoor skills while emphasizing sustainable practices and the importance of conservation. NOLS programs let you spend your gap year hiking, sailing, kayaking, or even on horseback!
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition varies widely according to program
  • An AGA-accredited organization
  • Over 150 available courses, including service expeditions and certification programs
Financial Aid Available? Numerous scholarships and awards are available

Ridge Mountain Academy

Overview: Mountain sports enthusiasts can spend a gap semester doing what they love best at this Montana campus. Alongside skill-building coaching exercises, students learn basic concepts in meteorology, snow science, and wilderness first aid and safety. Learn to survive an avalanche, build physical endurance, and improve athletic performance as you earn up to nine college credits over the course of a single semester.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $39,500
  • An AGA-accredited organization
  • Train in skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, climbing, skateboarding, and trail running
Financial Aid Available? Scholarships and grants available

Outward Bound

Overview: Looking for an intensive program that will prepare you for a career in the wilderness? Outward Bound’s gap semester programs teach vital skills through outdoor adventures that range from dog sledding in Alaska to hiking in Patagonia. Build meaningful relationships with team members as you tackle challenging environments and master new skills in one of many breathtaking settings.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition varies according to destination and duration
  • An AGA-accredited program
  • International destinations include Ecuador, India, and the Bahamas
Financial Aid Available? Contact for further information, or to apply

The High Mountain Institute (HMI) Gap

Overview: Prepare for a professional or academic career in conservation while exploring the world through HMI’s three-month programs. Based in Patagonia and the American West, these programs combine environmental studies with exciting expeditions into a range of challenging landscapes. Participants choose an outdoor curriculum focused on wilderness travel or intensive rock climbing, with no prior experience required.
Program Highlights:
  • Tuition: $14,300, plus travel expenses
  • An AGA-accredited program
Financial Aid Available? Need-based financial aid and a merit-based Civic Adventure Scholarship available

Financing Your Gap Year

It’s no secret that paying for a gap year can be expensive. With estimated costs ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, taking a gap year abroad is often viewed as a custom reserved for children of the wealthy. While many students from lower- to moderate-income households delay college in order to work and save money, their wealthier counterparts are more likely to spend the year after high school in programs abroad.

The cost of a gap year might seem prohibitive, but a rewarding experience is still within reach. By planning your own itinerary, for example, you can save hundreds of dollars in program fees. Additionally, more and more colleges offer scholarships and grants based on financial need, allowing students from all income levels to enjoy fulfilling gap year programs.


Colleges that Pay for Gap Years

As the benefits of taking a gap year become increasingly evident, many colleges are developing new approaches to help students fund pre-college experiences. The list below includes a few of the most well-known gap year assistance programs in the country. Contact an adviser to find out if similar options are available at your school of choice.

As the benefits of taking a gap year become increasingly evident, many colleges are developing new approaches to help students fund pre-college experiences. The list below includes a few of the most well-known gap year assistance programs in the country. Contact an adviser to find out if similar options are available at your school of choice.

  • Tufts University’s 1+4 Program

    This revolutionary program gives all incoming freshmen the opportunity to participate in a year-long national or global service program prior to their first year at Tufts. Students are placed in service opportunities that align with their academic and professional goals.

  • UNC Chapel Hill’s Global Gap Year Fellowship

    Awarded annually to seven high school graduates who have been admitted to UNC, this highly selective fellowship provides winners with $7,500 in program funding. Applicants must submit a proposal describing the goals they hope to attain during a year abroad.

  • Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program

    All newly-admitted undergraduates can apply to this nine-month, tuition-free program that matches students with community service projects around the world. Current destinations include China, Indonesia, and Senegal.

  • St. Norbert College’s Gap Experience

    20 St. Norbert students are chosen annually to take part in this semester-long service program based in Canada and Guatemala. Program fees are included in regular tuition, and participants are only responsible for the cost of airfare.

  • Warren Wilson College’s Community Engagement & Leadership Scholarships

    Students who have already excelled in AGA-accredited programs may be considered for these merit scholarships. All incoming students are considered for awards upon applying to Warren Wilson College with no additional application necessary.

Programmatic Scholarships

While the well-known institutions listed above offer scholarships and financial aid to eligible applicants, many programs also provide funding for specific gap year itineraries. Below are several more programs that can potentially finance pre-college experiences through grants and scholarships.

  • CIEE

    In addition to scholarships based on merit and financial need, CIEE awards a $3,500 grant to students with an interest in blogging and other social media platforms. Recipients of the social media grant must complete weekly blog posts during their gap year excursion.

  • Winterline Global Education

    Tuition for Winterline’s gap year programs is all-inclusive, and numerous scholarships based on need and merit are available. The organization also offers several work-study scholarships that allow students to develop skills in photography, journalism, and videography as they keep a record of their gap year experience.

  • Omprakash EdGE

    The EdGE Gap Year Grant awards free tuition and up to $2,500 toward the cost of travel for students under 22 who are spending six or more months abroad. Applicants of any age are eligible for the EdGE Travel Grants and scholarships. Both scholarships provide partial funding for programs over three months long. Students can raise additional funds through Omprakash’s crowdfunding platform.

  • Irish Gap Year

    Students with a documented need for financial assistance can apply for funding by filling out an in-depth survey. In addition to providing an estimated family contribution, applicants must demonstrate a clear sense of purpose and a desire to learn and develop new skills during their year abroad.

  • Dream Volunteers

    Ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, these need-based scholarships offer partial funding for the nine-month WorldStamp program. Applicants must develop and describe a fundraising plan for the remainder of their program fees.

  • ISA Gap Year

    ISA awards one annual scholarship for each of its three terms: summer, fall, and winter/spring. Along with maintaining a 3.0 GPA, interested students must include an essay, a mission statement, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher with their application.

Additional Sources of Financial Aid

Not all gap year funding comes from colleges or the programs themselves. Many public and private organizations offer scholarships and grants that can be applied to gap year programs as well as college tuition. Depending on your personal and academic background, you could be eligible for the following awards:

  • Hostelling International

    If you’re between 18 and 30 and eligible to receive a federal Pell Grant, you could be awarded one of 98 $2,000 grants from Hostelling International. Recipients must reside in one of 14 metropolitan areas specified by the organization.


    Cancer survivors and their relatives are offered a chance to win this $2,000 scholarship. Applicants must complete a short essay.

  • Davidson Fellows Scholarship

    One of the largest scholarships in the world, this scholarship is awarded to exceptional students who have completed a significant work in one of eight fields.

  • AgoraPulse Social Media Management Scholarship

    What’s the best use of social media management you’ve ever seen? Describe it in a brief essay, and you could win a $1,000 scholarship toward the program of your choice.

  • Brower Youth Awards

    Environmental leaders between the ages of 13 and 22 are encouraged to apply for this award, which includes a $3,000 cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco.

Using 529 Plans to Pay for Your Gap Year

If your family has invested in a 529 college savings plan, you may be able to apply those funds to your gap year expenses. When college plans change, parents are often left with the burden of withdrawing funds from a 529 to pay for non-qualified purchases. To avoid paying federal income tax on 529 savings, some families choose to put this money towards a gap year program. Most programs that provide college credit are considered qualifying 529 plan expenses, according to the IRS.

In particular, because many organizations offer college credit- and non-credit versions of the same programs, parents interested in funding a gap year with 529 savings must be sure that their chosen program qualifies. If you’re unsure of a program’s eligibility, contact a program adviser for further information.

Traveling Abroad on a Budget

  • Travel outside of peak season: Save big on airfare by avoiding peak travel times. These periods tend to vary widely between destinations, so a little research beforehand can help you save a lot of money.
  • Pack lightly: Many airlines charge extra fees for checked bags. And who wants to lug around a bulky suitcase, anyway? A minimal approach to packing means less money spent and less hassle endured.
  • Stay at home: If your program includes a homestay option, take it! Living, working, and dining with a local family is an economical choice that yields memories and builds meaningful relationships.
  • Say no to souvenirs: Nothing captures important moments like photography! Instead of loading up on pricey souvenirs, make mementos through photos or a travel journal.
  • Think locally: You don’t have to go abroad for a fulfilling gap year experience. Many domestic programs offer exciting opportunities and much lower tuition rates than their international counterparts.

Transitioning to College After Your Gap Year

The numbers are in and the benefits of taking a gap year are evident. Not only do 90% of gap year students return to college within a year, 60% claim that their experience put them on their current academic path or confirmed their major. In addition to reporting higher motivation and better overall academic performance, an overwhelming amount of students also report that taking a gap year encourages skill development and increases their employability. Even students with below-average grades in high school demonstrated marked improvement in their college courses after taking a gap year.

90% of gap year students return to college within a year, and 60% claim that their experience put them on their current academic path or confirmed their major

It’s recommended that students plan their transition to college before embarking on a gap year adventure, but many high school students are unsure of how to apply to college after gap year. AGA suggests applying to schools during senior year as you normally would, then discussing a gap year option with an admissions counselor. Once you’ve been accepted into your school of choice, pay your deposit as a placeholder, and ask for a deferral. As gap year programs increase in popularity, more and more four-year colleges are implementing deferral policies, or even encouraging students to take a year off. AGA maintains a comprehensive list of American universities with formal deferral policies, making it easy to determine if your chosen school supports gap years.


Ask a School Counselor

Brandi Lewis is a high school counselor and licensed professional counselor associate in Charlotte, NC, where she works for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. She has worked in education for 13 years, and specializes in classroom instruction, academic advising, individual and group counseling, workshops, and professional development for at-risk adolescents seeking individualized attention.

Have you observed more students opting to take a gap year in recent years?

While the number of students taking a gap year is currently low, there has been a consistent increase in interest given the increase in popularity. Fewer than 10% of our graduating class this year indicated that they were interested in taking a gap year. For many of those students, a gap year means that they will take a year off from attending college or entering into the military to save money for their expenses. There were several students in that group that were going to take advantage of our district’s study abroad program.

What are the most common reasons students choose to take a gap year?

To work and save money for school expenses; get more fit before entering into the military; travel with family members; mission trips or other community/civic organization-sponsored service.

How do students students typically finance their gap year experiences -- specifically, the students who choose to go abroad?

Our school district offers a study abroad program as a partnership with other community organizations for students to take a 13th year or participate in International Field Trips while an underclassman. Students may apply for scholarships or independently fund raise for expenses. For students who are serving in mission trips, they often independently raise funds.

Do you encourage students to take a gap year?

I strongly suggest gap years, particularly for self-directed students with a plan, because it can offer an invaluable experience and personal growth. My biggest suggestions are study abroad programs or service-related activities. I also advise that without a plan, a delay for many students can be detrimental because many students struggle with the newfound freedom that a gap year allows, and may not enroll or attend college or enlist in the military.

What additional advice would you give to a high school student considering taking time off before college?

If you are interested in taking a gap year, consider structured programs that will allow you to explore your interests and acquire skills including apprenticeships, internships, study abroad, and long-term service based opportunities. Learning as many trades and skills as possible while you are young is beneficial for personal and professional growth; it can add to your resume and expands your worldview. Serving others can also help to shape the type of career you would like to pursue before you financially invest in your education.

Additional Resources

  • This site maintains a large database of volunteer work opportunities, gap year jobs, and helpful downloads ranging from guidebooks to travel apps.
  • Teen Life Those interested in domestic gap year experiences can explore Teen Life’s comprehensive list of US-based programs.
  • Volunteer Latin America Qualified applicants can visit Central and South America for free or at low cost through this volunteer program.
  • Workaway Offering homestay volunteer programs in over 155 countries, Workaway helps applicants locate host families around the world.
  • Gap360 Looking for paid work opportunities overseas? In addition to gap year programs of all kinds, Gap360 lists numerous paid positions in its database.