Making transformative gap years an accessible option for all high school graduates.
A semester of gap year time, with access to college credit & financial aid, for every high school graduate.
We want to see more Americans taking intentional time away from "classroom" before accruing college debt, starting their careers, and choosing a life-path, in order to facilitate perspective, purpose, and maturation. We believe that the life-experience gained from travel at this opportune time in life, sets students up for success in the real world. Taking an intentional gap year has been shown to increase college graduation rates, improve GPAs, increase participation in campus activities, and overall increase career satisfaction. Visit our Data & Benefits page to see the research - or ask any gap year alum!
What is the Gap Year Association?
Founded in 2012, the Gap Year Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit accreditation and standards-setting organization for gap years that is recognized as such by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. We continue to advance the field of gap years because we have seen their profound benefits on students from all backgrounds, and believey an intentional gap year can be part of the welfare for us, our nation, our neighbors, and our fellow global citizens. The Association collaboratively pioneers research on its outcomes, as well as serves as an information and advocacy hub for university admissions personnel and educational counselors. Our primary focus is on making gap years an accessible option for high school graduates. While we believe that every participant would benefit greatly from a gap year, we also maintain that a gap year is not the right 'fit' for everyone.
In 2017, we transitioned from the American Gap Association to the newly-titled Gap Year Association. We are proud to make this transition to be of broader support to the global Gap Year Movement, and further expand our mission to be a more objective resource to any student taking a gap year, whether structured, unstructured, or a combination of the two. Our previous Seal of Accreditation, representing exclusively those few members who were able to meet the most rigorous standards in the field, has been replaced with three new Seals of Accreditation, represent the highest achievement available for:
Accredited Gap Year Program
Accredited Gap Year Consultant
Official Gap Year College/University
The American Gap Foundation was created as a 501(c)(3)non-profit organization in 2012, with a primary mission of creating scholarships for young Americans to embark on their gap years. Another 501(c)4 was created, called the American Gap Association, whose primary mission was to establish professional credentialing and grow the Gap Year Movement. In 2014, these two organizations merged, keeping the 501(c)3, and retaining a nonprofit board of directors, and establishing a committee to govern the credentialing for gap year Standards - as
The American Gap Association, now the Gap Year Association, is constantly developing a variety of resources for the educational benefit of gap year students, providers, and gap year programs (both independent and organized), as well as for Educational Counselors.
Our partners in this vision include:
Ethan Knight is from Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Catlin Gabel high school and Willamette University, he is also a "Gapper." Ethan has been working within the world of gap years since 1996, when he took his own gap year to India, Nepal and Tibet. Back in those days the only options to taking an official gap year was through the Center for Interim Programs, and that's exactly how he first heard about this strange thing called a gap year. After an inspired talk at his high school, he started a conversation with Interim Programs to discuss what would eventually turn into his own sojourn. Ethan graduated from Willamette University - a small liberal arts university - with majors in English and Philosophy, and a minor in Environmental Sciences. Immediately after graduating he went to work for LEAPNOW as an intern where his passion for education and humanity really took root. With the help of a few key mentors along the way, primarily Sam Bull, Ethan eventually led programs for groups of gap year students through Latin America and Asia, finally working his way up to Assistant Director of the organization.
After seven years at LEAPNOW, Ethan returned home to Portland, Oregon to found Carpe Diem Education. With a unqiue relationship to Portland State University, a bridge was built to this idea of a "gap year", and a serparate nonprofit gap year program created to work wiht lower income youth in Portland called Carpe Mundi, that could access credit and federal scholarships from gap years.
He's a fan of a variety of sayings that have emerged over the years of his work in the industry:
- Passion is a better predictor of success than IQ will ever be
- In the absence of information, people will create their own
- Mankind, for better or worse, tends to recreate what we've known
- Mankind can only dream as big as we've seen
- Meet each person where they're at
- The whole is much more than the sum of its parts
Dianna's journey with gap years began during her own gap year when she deferred a semester at college to live in Paris as an au pair. This sparked her interest in travel and experiential education. She went on to study abroad, and pursue a masters in International Education as a result of a last minute decision to do something different before heading to college! Now as an international educator with more than 15 years of experience working with youth, volunteers, artists, and educators in both experiential and international setting, she is a strong advocate for Gap Year programming. As the director of Global Routes and previously its partner organization, Windsor Mountain International Travel, Dianna has worked with hundreds of families to support students in meaningful educational programs. She also was the director of Clowns Without Borders, an organization bringing artists into areas of crisis to provide performances and workshops for children. In recent years she has been consulting for various international education organizations with a focus on staffing, strategic planning, and crisis management. Her main focus has always been to build community across cultures and encourage long lasting friendships across the world.
Dianna has organized educational programs for youth and adults throughout the US and in more than 20 countries. She has traveled to Samoa to research the culture of tattooing, facilitated leadership and service learning programs in the Grenadines, paraded in the streets of Port Au Prince, Haiti with a band of clowns and musicians and collaborated with performing artists in Northern India to perform for migrant worker children. She loves spending time with her family outdoors and dabbling in the garden when she gets a chance!
Dianna holds an MA, International Education, School for International Training. BA, Anthropology, Connecticut College.
Travel Access Project, GYA Editor, Blog & Voices Project
Jenn has been traveling since before she was born. Educated by a variety of means, including two separate school years traveling during her childhood, she took her first solo summer gap at 16. Instead of taking a gap year, Jenn has built a gap life, traveling full time for over seven years, with her family, for the express purpose of the educations of her four children.
With a degree in Education from Indiana State University Jenn has built her career in the Alternative Education world, as an Educational Consultant and Curriculum Designer for families who desire to educate differently in some capacity. She has helped numerous families, and individuals, combine education and adventure and is a firm believer that travel is a life changing component of our educational process. She has educated all of her children outside of the system, from birth through university admission and is an expert in drawing rigorous intellectual education out of experiential learning. Having given her own children the benefit of the world as their classroom, she's dedicating the second half of her career to securing the same benefits for all young people. Her big goal is to get a Gap Year on every resume.
In addition to adventuring on six continents, Jenn speaks three languages, and is a prolific published writer and speaker on topics related to the intersection of education and adventure. She believes in the relentless pursuit of passions and is interested in helping people live their dreams.
Sara Flowers, PhD
College and University Deferral Policies Volunteer
Sara Flowers was born to a Navy family in San Francisco but has grown up in Maine for the past 30 years. She was not a gapper since she left high school after her junior year to start college early. However, Sara chose a college pathway that started in community college and led to achieving a baccalaureate degree at State university while spending summers traveling and seeing the world through teaching ESL. She received her TESOL certificate and completed student teaching in Prague, Czech Republic; she spent one summer teaching in Istanbul, Turkey; and she spent a summer teaching for a Russian school in Anjalankoski, Finland.
As a young adult, Sara participated in an adult renewal excursion with Voyager Outward Bound in Ely, Minnesota where she and her brigade mushed and camped for 8 days in the boundary waters region in -20° February! This rugged climate definitely required new skills and dispositions. The experience of leaving her comfort zone inspired Sara to take on other adventures like summiting Kilimanjaro in an 8-day hike in 2015 and hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu for 4 days in 2017.
Sara is currently the Director of the TRIO Scholars Program, University of Maine at Augusta, the English/Language Arts faculty of the Maine College of Health Professions, and spends a great deal of time researching and writing about youth development, gap year programming, Scandinavian folk high schools, college transitions, and post-secondary first-year initiatives. She has a master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education, a certificate of advanced graduate study in Adult Learning with a concentration in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, a doctorate in Educational Leadership, and is currently working with the University of Southern Maine Muskie School of Public Service in public and non-profit management.
In the fall of 2016, Sara spent two weeks living at the Fosen Folkehøjskole in Rissa, Norway researching the folk high school structure and what this could mean for United States gap students.
Sara learned about the Gap Year Association while researching her dissertation and is pleased to be a part of this important work. She volunteers with GYA researching and organizing information about college and university deferral policies for gap year students across the United States.
Sara lives in Maine with her husband Tom, Emma the corgi, and Garm & Arne the kitties. They love the outdoors and enjoy multi-day hiking, camping, and adventuring the bigger, wider world every chance they get!