Gap Year 101

What is a gap year? -- IT'S A GROWTH YEAR NOT A LOAF YEAR!

  • A gap year is a period of time, usually between high school and college, when students take a break from formal classroom-based education to deepen their personal, practical, and professional awareness. 
  • Gap years are not a break from learning, instead gap years are intended to help students develop practical skills and gain greater clarity of personal values and goals for the future.

The best gap years are rooted in experiential education for a minimum of 2 months. 


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A well-planned gap year typically includes 2-4 of these components:

  • Service/Volunteering
  • Career Exploration
  • Paid Work
  • Travel/Adventure/Fun

Sample Gap Year Plan:

🍁 Fall Structured program with a group and instructors

🏑 Return home for holidays

❄️ Winter/Spring Explore possible major and/or career options via independent volunteer placement, internship, or work abroad 

🌞 Summer Paid Work, Travel, Preparations for College


During your gap year you can expect to be challenged

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  • Different Cultural Traditions
  • Foreign Languages
  • Homesickness
  • Stereotypes 
  • Physical & Mental Health
  • Time & Money Management

But also rewarded...


How much does a gap year cost?

Cost of a gap year depends on a variety of factors (location, level of support, type of experience, etc.)

Most organized programs cost between $2,500 - $10,000+ per semester                                       

Gap Year Advisors are another expense that can help you save money by offering guidance planning an independent experience. Gap Year Advisors recommend vetted programs, volunteer and internship options not always visible at fairs or in online searches.

A Service Year is a great low-cost option for a gap year experience and may make you eligible for a college scholarship upon completion. Many service year programs require a 10-12 month commitment. They typically cover all expenses and offer a modest living stipend. Examples: (AmeriCorps NCCC or City Year)


Timeline for Planning a Gap Year

  • Apply to college in the fall of your senior year
  • Decide if a gap year is right for you
  • Research gap year opportunities (Attend Gap Year Fairs, Speak with a Gap Year Advisor)
  • Apply to gap year programs late fall-spring of your senior year 
  • After receiving your offer of admission, request a deferral to the college you will attend when your gap year ends

Things to Consider

What is your motivation for taking a gap year?
What are you interested in exploring during your gap time?
What is your budget?
Do you want to travel? If so, where?
What are you comfortable with? (Solo or Peer-based travel? Rugged experiences? Rural homestays?) 

Still have questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch!

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Gift Ideas for Graduates Taking a Gap Year

Weekend in Switzerland