Funding a Gap Year in 2018

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As the 2018 gap year season gets rolling, we’re faced with the most common issue Gappers have: how to pay for it all. Gap years can add up, especially when factoring in programs, flights, travel insurance, and lodging. But even so, we firmly believe that it’s possible for most students to take a gap year. Gap year organizations have given away $4,000,000 in scholarships and grants, with thousands more available for the coming season. With a little extra effort and research, anyone could receive thousands towards their adventure. Put in several hours a week towards grant applications and you could receive twice as much, or more, than you would working a summer job (you should still work the summer job!)

We’ve already put together an extensive list of scholarship opportunities in our Financial Aid resource page. Here are a few more to keep in mind, as well as handy tips to cut gap year costs without receiving funding.

Available Scholarships:

CIEE Gap Year Scholarships:

CIEE has a total of $100,000 in gap year grants to award this year. These grants can be applied to any gap year program, including programs you’ve already been accepted to! To apply, students must have a GPA of at least a 3.0. Available scholarships include the Merit Scholarship (20% off the cost of one semester), the Merit & Financial Scholarship (50% off the cost of one semester), and the Blogging & Social Media Scholarship ($3,500 off the cost of one semester in exchange for weekly blog posts). Imagine getting paid to document your adventure as you go!

Application Deadlines:
Fall departures – apply by April 30th
Spring departures – apply by October 1st

GoOverseas Scholarships:

GoOverseas regularly gives out thousands of dollars worth of gap year scholarships, usually aimed at American and European students. Some of these will partner with a specific program, others aim to fund your own personal project or idea. GoOverseas has no scholarships open at the moment, but keep an eye out for more coming up soon.

Hostelling International:

It’s in HI USA’s best interests to encourage students to travel. Head on over to their website and you’ll find two different scholarship options designed to help low-income students travel the world. HI USA has travel scholarship programs in 15 cities metropolitan areas across the country aimed at helping travelers aged 18 to 30 realize their dreams. The application periods for both main scholarships are closed now but will reopen again for 2018. Sign up for their email alert to stay tuned for the 2018 scholarship opportunities.

The Explore The World Scholarship:
$2,000 to support a trip that includes an educational or service component.

The Explore America Scholarship: Free dorm overnights at HI USA hostels and a $500 travel stipend.

Pollination Project:

Grants $1000 a day for a specific project. These grants are given out not based on destination or education, but on what you’re planning to do with your time. They are looking for extraordinary grassroots leaders who likely won’t be able to find funding from other organizations. If you’re planning to use your gap year to kick start a project that will help a community or the world in some way, apply here at any time.

The Ferguson Trust Awards

Offering 233 grants of £300 annually to students embarking on a gap year through an organization. Grants are awarded on a first come, first serve basis, so apply soon if you want to be considered for 2018! Applications can take up to three months to process; bear this in mind in order to receive funding before your program begins. The Ferguson Trust Awards are based in the UK, but according to the latest info available online, they do accept students from overseas.

The Captain Scott Society

The CSS regularly gives away thousands of dollars to students planning trips with an unusual or extraordinary component, particularly those focused on “adventurous firsts” such as scaling unclimbed peaks, breaking a world record, or trying something hardly anyone else has accomplished before. They will also give away awards for potentially unique character building experiences.

Applications are due by the end of March,
and winners are expected to create a detailed report of their trip after its completion. There are two awards available: The Spirit of Adventure Award for $2,700, all ages; and the Vivian Fuchs Youth Award for ages 19 and under.

RSAA Travel & Adventure Award

For residents of the UK aged under 25. The award offers £1000 annually to a single student planning a trip to any part of Asia, including the Middle East. The planned trip should relate to the geography, history, politics, environmental conservation, culture or art of the area to be visited. Ideally it should also be designed to positively impact the local culture and the applicant.

Application deadline for 2018 is yet to be declared, but will likely be in November.

Peter Kirk European Travel Scholarships Foundation

10 awards each year of £2000 for young people spending between 6 weeks and 3 months in Europe in a country of their choice. Any European citizen can apply, but candidates from countries other than the UK and Ireland would normally be expected to do the major part of their project in the UK.

Apply by November.

Travel Access Project

The Travel Access Project gives grants for gap year travel. If you’re planning an independent gap year, this organization may provide up to $3000 of the funds you need to make it happen. Last year they gave seven grants and partnered with GoOverseas and Wayfinding Academy to give several more, smaller grants. This year, they plan to award up to ten $3000 grants for gap year travel.

Applications open mid-February, 2018. Get on their mailing list to be notified.

The Trans Globe Expedition Trust

The trust is “a charity which was established in 1993 to perpetuate the memory of the Transglobe Expedition by supporting humanitarian, scientific or educational projects which follow in the expedition’s tradition of adventure and perseverance.” If you plan to spend your Gap Year tackling an out-of-this world adventure, check here to see if they’ll help fund it.

Preference seems to be given to those pursuing a long-distance adventure sport, though research and film projects have also been funded in past. You decide how much money you want TET to fund via a detailed application report. Apply at any time.

Banks & Universities

It’s becoming more common for universities and banks to offer travel grants to high school graduates and university undergraduates. Check to see if your bank is involved, particularly if it happens to be paired with your future university. Funding tends to be on a first come, first serve basis and awards can range from between $250 and $1000. The University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill offers a $7,500 gap year fellowship. Princeton University offers a Bridge Year program which fully covers gap year tuition and living expenses. If your future degree relates to your chosen volunteer project, universities may be interested in providing extra funding. Visit their financial aid or study abroad office to see what’s on offer. It never hurts to ask!

Some universities will also count your gap year as academic credit, such as the the Gap Experience at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, or Elon University’s 13-week gap semester, which earns students nine hours of academic credit. Check here to see a list of universities that heavily support Gap Year students.

Tips for Applying:

Look locally

Local charities and funds are most likely to help out with a gap year, simply because there will be less people applying for the funding. Improve the odds of being accepted for their grants by giving your gap year a community-minded slant with benefits that could trickle back home.

Focus on matching criteria – don’t waste time randomly hitting everyone

Only apply for scholarships or grants which actually match up with who you are and the adventure you’re planning. Grants aren’t set up like a lottery and more applications don’t increase your odds of success. Invest in time researching each grant via its website, preparing a detailed and well-organized application, and ensuring you’re the perfect fit for their project. Know what they’re looking for and you’re more likely to write an application that fits those criteria.

Be professional with your approach

Put time and effort into writing a professional application that beautifully showcases your ideas, background, and gap year goals. While there will be some bleed-over between applications, always be sure to customize each submission to fit the criteria of the grant. The more professional and engaging the application, the more likely it is to succeed. Prove that you’re worthy of an organization’s funds by putting adequate time and effort into your proposal.

Non-Scholarship Ways to Save / Find Money

Applying for scholarships is not the only way to cut gap year costs significantly. Make the best of what you have by putting together your own fundraiser, asking around at local charities, and getting smart about available travel deals.

Local charities

Local Rotary clubs or Lions clubs regularly grant funding to youth travel. Check within your community to find available bursaries and awards, particularly if your gap year has a community-minded aspect. Also check with local churches and schools. Get creative and find out where and how a gap year fundraiser could be set up. Keep in mind that funds are rarely freely given and figure out what your gap year has to offer others.

Intern abroad

Combat gap year costs by doing a paid internship. Some students use their gap year to earn money towards college while living overseas, learning new skills, and boosting their resumes. The Gilman Scholarship offers over 2,900 scholarships of up to $5000 for students with limited financial means planning to intern abroad. It is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university. Many internships also offer funding, flights, and even lodging. Take a look at some of the paid internship opportunities out there.

  • Find cheap or free lodging through hostels or community-minded organizations like Couchsurfing, WWOOF, or Worldpackers
  • Check out the “free food” shelves most hostels provide for travelers looking to ditch their extra food before taking a flight
  • Book with budget airlines – it’s possible in the off-season to fly for as little as €30 one-way on occasion via Spirit Airlines, RyanAir, Wow Air, and others. Check this list to find the cheapest airlines in every country
  • Access incredible travel deals through StudentUniverse. Save up to 40% off hotels and hostels and fly cheap with over 70 airlines; all you have to do is verify your student status
  • Bring your student card with you while traveling & save $$ by buying student rail passes, museum tickets, and student grocery discounts worldwide
  • Check out cheap (safe) ground transportation options like Megabus or Flixbus to travel for as little as a euro or two
  • This youth discount card will get you tons of travel discounts and deals in over 133 countries worldwide, and it’s free; if you’re under 30, signing up for this card is a no-brainer

Choosing the right credit card can help reduce expenses on your gap year. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is the most popular. It doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, is accepted worldwide, and has an attractive rewards program to boot. Spend $500 on this card within the first three months and you’ll automatically have an extra $100 worth of travel rewards credits to use on flights or lodging. Open an account before you go or check on your current bank’s travel policies.

Guidelines for Choosing the Right Gap Year Program

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Gap season is upon us! For high school seniors (and parents) who are considering deferring post-secondary education for a semester or year, I have compiled a comprehensive list of questions to serve as a navigational guide for selecting and differentiating between gap programs. In addition to my own vetting criteria and helpful links to recommended articles on specific issues, I solicited input from program leaders in the gap industry. If you plan to attend an upcoming gap year fair in your area, consider using this as a tool to pare down the various options for the gap program that is the right fit.

The Gap Program Experience

  • How long has the gap program been in operation? Ask if they were formally only a summer program or a college study abroad program that has just opened their gap option…what is their experience with this specific age group of young adults?
  • Is the program accredited by the Gap Year Association or in the process? This means that they have been through a comprehensive, rigorous review process with high standards for all aspects of the program.
  • If the gap program is based in Europe or outside the US, what is the foreign accreditation equivalent? Most organizations abide by the industry/government standards BS8848 Trading Standards as well as The Year Out Group.
  • What is the program’s mission and philosophy? This should be spelled out clearly in their website and literature.
  • Do they make program reviews readily available and offer former alumnae and their parents’ contacts for references? This is very important for students to be able to talk to former gap students about the nitty gritty of their experience.
  • What is their philosophy regarding voluntourism – read here. How do they view community service in orphanages, animal sanctuaries – read here – and medical clinics? Important ethical questions which need consideration. Learn more here.

Gap Program Characteristics:

  • Who is their “typical” student?
  • What are the program expectations of the student? Where does your child fit in-as a more engaged contributor or passive observer?
  • Is the program focus more on experiential or academic learning?
  • What are the components of the program i.e. homestay, service, travel, language, cultural immersion, excursions? Does your child want more of an “immersive” experience, and if so, is there too much travel?
  • How are home stays vetted? Are volunteers alone or paired in these home stays?
  • What is the program’s policy regarding certain dietary restrictions, or medical and mental health conditions? Remember that often times in rural homestays, veganism may be difficult to accommodate, so your child may need to be flexible.
  • Is it a group travel program or a more independent experience? Measure the student’s maturity, independence, and resilience as to how much supervision and structure they want or think they need. Take into consideration any previous independent travel experience.
  • How structured and supervised is the program and how much free time is offered?
  • What is the quality and length of their community service projects?
  • What is the quality of the partnerships with the local community organizations overseeing the community service? How do they find and develop these partnerships? Are they driven locally? How do they ensure the sustainability of these programs in local communities? In my opinion, longstanding partners need to be an integral part of the community who are not dependent on the gap program for viability.


  • Is the program fee reasonable? Is there a clear breakdown of costs so that you understand where your fees are allocated? Is airfare (both in-country and international) included?
  • Do they offer merit scholarships or financial aid? If not, do they provide assistance to families in seeking other funding options such as grants, gap scholarships, or social crowd funding sites?
  • Does the program offer college credit, and if so, how much and through which institution? Will that impact a student’s status for the deferred college-entering as an incoming freshman or as a transfer student?
  • Understand the nuances regarding college credit and gap programs by reading “Gap Year College Credit May Hurt You.”
  • Can 529 college savings funds be used? Read “Using 529 plan savings to pay for a gap year.”
  • FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a means to apply for federal grants or loans for college tuition and credit. Gap year programs are offering college credit and FAFSA dollars, but this varies widely by program and depends on specific relationships with colleges. Do your research: earning credit to gain access to FAFSA dollars may have some implications depending on college transfer-thresholds and financial aid. Check out FAFSA and Federal Student Aid.


  • Does the gap program offer a specific curriculum to help with transition home before the student’s return?
  • What follow up, if any, does the program provide post-gap in adapting to college and in creating a network of former gap students within the new community? Do they offer tips in adjusting to a university setting in the first semester?
  • If a gap program has impacted the student at a deep level, oftentimes students may struggle with issues such as white privilege and question social norms when first arriving at college.
  • Does the student’s future college offer support by way of gap student weekends, facebook groups, advisors or mentors who guide students through this adjustment process? Colleges who have gap programs as part of their university curriculum often build in a gap network and support system on college campuses.


  • What is their safety record? Ask the question “what is the most serious event or issue that has occurred on a program and how did they handle it?”
  • How does the program manage safety of overland travel?
  • How does the program mitigate risk and if necessary, respond to risks?
  • Do they have a cancellation policy? What is their emergency plan if a natural disaster, terrorist attack, military coup, or political event transpires during the program? Do they have rescue insurance in place to evacuate the students?
  • What are the rules and restrictions regarding: alcohol, drugs, bullying, weapons (knives), electronic devices (laptop, ipad, cell phone)?
  • What is the program’s policy around communication with home while traveling? This varies from program to program.


  • What is the background, age, and qualifications of program staff administratively and in the field? Ask about the number of years staff has taught and led groups in the field. Training credentials, both academic degrees ie. educational and experiential, and certifications are important.
  • Do field staff speak the local language and have extensive experience in and knowledge of the specific countries of travel? Have they been a program participant in this specific program?
  • What is the staff turnover? If they are rehiring new staff year after year, this is a red flag. Leadership mentoring is critical and longevity in a program establishes trust and reliability.
  • What is the staff training i.e. number of hours/days, medical courses, cpr, wilderness first responder, mental health classes, epipen use, etc.
  • What is the ratio of program leader to student? I normally advise 1:6. Take into account program leader gender as well.

Does it all seem overwhelming? Perhaps you’d like some help! Start with GYA accredited programs, as they’ll have ticked all the boxes on Marion’s checklist.

Many thanks to Marion Taylor, of Taylor the Gap, for her time, effort and dedication to the community in producing this excellent guide! She welcomes you to contact her for more information about how to plan a great gap year.

Gap Years on Instagram!

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With the second semester of most gap year programs beginning it’s exciting to see what students are experiencing in the field. Are you following the Instagram feeds of GYA member organizations yet?

Here are a few great images from the last few weeks:

Follow Global Citizen Year on Instagram


Follow High Mountain Institute on Instagram

GYA High Mountain

Follow Outward Bound on Instagram

GYA Outward Bound

Follow Pacific Discovery on Instagram

GYA Pacific Discovery

Follow Thinking Beyond Borders on Instagram


Gap Years in the News

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As the year draws to a close some students are finishing up the first semester of their Gap Year. Others, are deep in planning mode for the coming academic year. This week we’re featuring four student voices, reflecting on the value of taking a Gap Year.

Be sure to click through and read each of the full articles!

Paralympic Hero Ellie Simmonds Shares Tale of Eye-Opening Gap Year

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“The 22-year-old five-time Paralympic swimming champion from Aldridge, Walsall, has travelled to America, China, Mexico, South Africa, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia over the last 12 months, leaving behind her daily training routine to explore new horizons.

Documenting her journey, Ellie has spoken of how visiting countries in her own time, rather than as a Team GB ambassador, gave her ‘huge confidence’ and how the experience has led her to consider taking up teaching when she retires.”

“”I wanted to get away, to be a normal 21-year-old and wake up and think: “What shall I do today?”

“I’m so often visiting places as an ambassador for Paralympics GB, and I’m really proud of that.

“But I didn’t feel like I was representing anyone when I was away; I was just Ellie, not Ellie the swimmer, and, to my surprise, that gave me huge confidence.”

Ellie’s travel activities included people watching in San Francisco, snorkeling in Shanghai, taking yoga lessons in Mexico and playing football for Britain at the World Dwarf Games in Australia.

The former Aldridge School pupil also spoke of how people from different countries approached her differently due to her achondroplasia.”

Read more…

Dear Stanford, Mind the Gap

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Eddie Mattout writes:

“Attending a private, college-preparatory high school, the thought of taking a gap year never crossed my mind. I was consumed by my goal to attend the most prestigious university I could, as soon as possible. When I was accepted to Stanford, I watched every YouTube video that had some, if even tangential, relation to the Stanford experience and anxiously awaited Approaching Stanford’s weekly emails.

My life took a different direction, however. During the summer of 2015, I found myself volunteering in a children’s home in Israel. With a cohort of twenty Americans, I helped run a summer camp for children from at-risk backgrounds. Our philosophy was that “it is much easier to believe in yourself when others believe in you.” Every day, we ran different activities for the children, including a World Cup soccer tournament, color war, and swimming in the pool. Quickly, I became enamored with the project and the children we worked with, and decided to take two years off to help develop the non-profit and empower the children to establish successful lives and happy families. During that time, I also drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, which gave me deeper insights into the culture and daily realities of Israeli citizens.”

Read more…

QIAN: The Gift of Gap

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Lisa Qian writes:

“Not only is a gap year a chance to address the issues we experience during our time at Yale, but it is also a chance to look and learn beyond Yale. Most of us are quick to recognize the Yale bubble, and gap years are an opportunity to push yourself outside of it.

Since arriving in Indonesia in September, I have been pushed to think in ways that Yale had never asked me to. I’ve been an agro-tourism developer, freelance graphic designer for Southeast Asian nongovernmental organizations and translator and storyteller for an archaeology museum. But more importantly, by living in a society so foreign to what I grew up with, I have had innumerable realizations of my own ignorance. Speaking with everyone from village bureaucrats to veterinarians has forced me to examine my perceptions of achievement culture, oppression, colonialism and my own liberalism in ways that interactions with people at Yale, no matter how diverse our campus is, do not ask of me. In Bali, I’m learning about a fundamentally different understanding of how the world works. This requires me to unlearn so much that I took to be universal, which is a difficult and humbling task.”

Read more…

College Can Wait: Lessons Learned During My Gap Year

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“Arriving at the decision to take a gap year took a long time, but once it was made, everything became easier. This decision put things back into perspective for me, and helped me prioritize my time and invest in what I truly cared about, such as the relationships with like-minded people I came to cherish at TGS, the plethora of cultural, social and sensory experiences I came across during travels and, yes, even the enervating amount of essay writing once I actually applied it in real life practice while writing up case study reports for my internship.”

“Initially, I was afraid that I wouldn’t find enough meaningful projects to fill a whole year with. Now halfway through my gap year, I still feel like I have so much left that I want to do. I feel inspired by new opportunities weekly. The hard decision is not how to find opportunities, but instead where to best invest my time as opportunities worth pursuing are everywhere.

The most critical lesson I’ve learnt, undoubtedly, is to find comfort within the feeling of uncertainty. While insecurities still linger from time to time based on the judgement faced from having chosen a gap year, I know I would be experiencing the same kind of internal insecurity had I chosen to jump straight into university. So far, choosing a gap year was my personal best bet. It gave me a sense of clarity of what I want to do next, while providing the motivation and hands-on experience needed to understand why pursuing an alternative business degree in global change and project management is right for my future.”

Read more…

Welcome ARCC: Newly Accredited Members of AGA

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Newly Accredited: Adventures Cross Country (ARCC)

We are very excited to announce the accreditation of another fabulous Gap Year program provider: Adventures Cross Country (ARCC).

ARCC Gap semester programs that focus on living locally, working, learning and exploring in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Designed with an academic fabric that complements each and every location, ARCC Gap programs highlight regional issues that are directly linked to global challenges

For over 30 years ARCC Programs has offered extraordinary service and adventure programs for teenagers in some of the world’s most spectacular locations. With 22 programs on 6 continents, ARCC is proud of the lasting impact that generations of ARCC students have had on the people and the communities they visit and volunteer in throughout the world.

We’re honored to add this time-tested company to our community of Accredited Members and are excited about the possibilities their membership affords students seeking an educational and service oriented Gap Year.

The ARCC Gap Year

ARCC Gap Year programs offer an educational semester in a global classroom and cultural bridge between high school and college. They are an opportunity to live, work, learn and explore in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Designed with a rich academic fabric complementing each and every location, they highlight regional issues that are directly linked to global challenges.

Here’s what ARCC has to say about the programs they provide:

Unique and Unforgettable Experiences

ARCC is committed to providing unique and life-changing experiences that resonate deep within our students. On our programs, our students venture far off the beaten path, go to places and do things that most people can only dream about. We’ve spent over thirty years building close relationships with organizations and communities around the world to ensure our students engage in truly intimate, authentic encounters with the people, the cultures and the lands they visit.

Rich Educational Programming

Education is an essential part of the ARCC experience. Lessons throughout the program may be academic, in the form of the trip curriculum, or may be experiential, delivered through immersion in new ideas and situations.

Community-Driven Projects

ARCC Summer and Gap programs focus on community-driven and community-led sustainable projects that run on the ground year round. We invest in local communities by working with in-country partners and individuals who know the needs of the community and help provide quality projects that directly benefit the places we visit. We prioritize grassroots organizations that allow students to have hands-on experiences, while building meaningful relationships with community members.

Learn More About ARCC

National College Planning Summit Interview With Ethan Knight

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High school seniors are in the throes of college admissions paperwork and planning. The National College Planning Summit is a free online resource to help parents and students navigate the, sometimes rough, waters of the transition from high school to college.

The Summit is now available on YouTube and the Summary Notes of each interview are available for free download

Check out Ethan’s interview about Gap Years and college planning:

Click here for the summary notes of Ethan’s interview.

Is Taking a Gap Year Worth Graduating Late?

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In short, YES. Gap Years can kickstart motivation, teach valuable life skills, hone resumes into killer shape, and open doors to future opportunities. And believe it or not, Gap Year students may actually graduate a year ahead of time.

Did you know that many teenagers in other countries wait a year after high school before heading to college? In Norway, Denmark and Turkey, for instance, more than 50 percent of students take a year off before college, according to the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education in Oslo, Norway. (USA Today)

So what makes the Gap Year such a popular trend in countries which greatly value higher education? While Gap Years may look like a delay in starting your “real” life, the stats show us that a Gap Year can effectively jumpstart a successful college transition and future career.

Gap Years Boost Resumes & Applications

One of the most common complaints Gap Year advisors hear from parents is that “we saved for four years, not for five.” The cost of a Gap Year can be a huge concern for parents who are staring down four years of rising college costs. However, Gap Years can actually save parents money in the long run. As the world becomes increasingly connected, universities and employers are looking for students with international experience. The skills and experiences that students gain while on a Gap Year can work in their favor when applying for scholarships, job opportunities, and grants.

Gap Year – Adulting 101

Over the course of their international year, Gap Year students practice more independent adulthood. The challenge of taking on a Gap Year can teach organizational skills, time management, basic budgeting, safety awareness, and can boost independence and responsibility. When a Gap Year student then transitions to a college setting, the skills they already have can boost them ahead of their peers. Without the distraction of “learning how to be an adult,” students can focus on classes, keep track of their academic schedules, and even pursue internships or job opportunities immediately.

After taking a year to build these skills and connections, it’s going to be easier for students to earn money while at university, thus cutting on-campus costs. As a Gap Year student, be sure to seek out opportunities to build your resume and work experience as you travel, especially if your goal is to be financially independent in university.

Increase Odds of Completing a Degree Program

Take a look at some of the most common benefits students reported (National Alumni Survey) having gained during their Gap Year:
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Many students report returning from their Gap Year with new motivation and personal confidence that can help them to succeed in university. The time abroad allows students to explore new interests, to get in touch with their passions, and to learn that their educations should be self-driven. Taking a 1-year break between high school and university encourages ‘motivation for and interest in study to be renewed.’ [Birch, “The Characteristics of Gap-Year Students and Their Tertiary Academic Outcomes”, Australia, 2007] As a result, Gappers are more likely to return to university and to pick a major that truly suits them. Statistically, we see 9 out of 10 Gap Year students returning to take up college studies within a year.

With a lower risk of dropping out, changing their major, or being bored in a major they dislike, Gap Year students earn noticeably improved grades. According to Bob Clagget, former Dean of Admissions at Middlebury College, students who took a Gap Year almost always overperformed academically in college, usually to a statistically significant degree. Most importantly, the positive effect of taking a Gap Year was demonstrated to endure over all four years.

With this boost in personal motivation and GPA, it’s not uncommon for Gappers to complete their time at college a year early. But even if the student does not graduate faster than the average four years, after taking a Gap Year they will automatically have a better chance of actually completing university to begin with.
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Gappers Build A Successful Future

Ideally, a Gap Year allows students to discover their dream calling and to start down the path towards a future they care about. Students who have taken a Gap Year overwhelmingly report being satisfied with their jobs. Students need time to get to know themselves and to take charge of their own decision-making process. Given the chance, Gappers will explore new interests, create valuable experiences for themselves, and ultimately work towards a meaningful future career. Without that time, it’s not uncommon for students to land in a degree program which leads to a career path they have no real interest in. If one year of international travel could save you 5+ years of tedium, wouldn’t you want to leave tomorrow?

Combating Gap Year Costs

Gap Year costs can be easily combated with a little effort on the student’s part. Gappers, take the time to seek out and apply for scholarships and grants. With the Gap Year movement growing rapidly, many organizations are working hard to provide financial assistance to those who need it, with the goal of providing Gap Year access to every student.

Starting the adventure from within the safety of a structured program that is accredited is another great way to save money and avoid costly early hassles and emergencies. Check out our list of accredited programs to find high quality programs that cater to your individual goals.

After participating in a group program or two, save money by switching to solo budget travel. Travel to destinations like Central or South America, where living costs may be cheaper than staying in an apartment back home. Take a look at work-abroad opportunities, where students trade a few hours of work each day for room and board. These are a great way to learn new skills and gain experience that can boost resumes and jumpstart a future career!

Finally, have a plan! Your Gap Year will help you forward only if you’re intentional with your time. If you’re actively planning to find motivation, to take on projects that will help you into internships and opportunities down the road, and to be working towards your college path, you’ll find that a Gap Year can help students get through uni faster than ever.

Don’t Forget:

Life is not a race to the finish line. Don’t think of a Gap Year as a delay in your “real” life. You are building your real life right now, every single day. Are you building a life that excites you? Are you pursuing a future that inspires you? If not, perhaps it’s time to take a Gap Year, explore what the world has to offer, and jumpstart the life you want to be living!


Taking a Gap Year can save students (and parents) time and money down the road. Thanks to the newfound skills, motivation, and self-knowledge that students gain during a Gap Year, the college process can become cheaper and easier. Here are a few ways a

Gap Year can equip students for accelerated college success:

International experience boosts resumes and applications, both for job opportunities and potential scholarships.

“Adulting” skills learned on the road ease the Gap-college transition, allowing students to focus on their studies.

9/10 Gappers return to university within a year. The motivation and skills aquired during their Gap Year greatly improve their odds of staying within one degree program and completing it. Some may even earn their degree in only 3 years.

Gappers report higher levels of job satisfaction after college.

Gap Year costs can be combated by applying for scholarships, earning money during the trip, and pursuing budget travel to cheap destinations.

Advice for Parents from Gap Year Parents

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As a Gap Year counselor, I work closely with students to design meaningful plans for their time out. More often than not, a student’s parents are also by their side to encourage and inspire the planning process. Parents of gappers see the value in travel and experiential learning but also want to make sure their child will be safe on their Gap Year. If you are currently helping your child through the planning process, consider these tips from seasoned Gap Year parents who have been there!

1. Start Thinking About a Gap Year Early

In my experience, the sooner a student starts brainstorming their Gap Year plans, the more deliberate the ultimate itinerary turns out to be. Gap Year parent Jane suggests, ”Try to get started on the exploration of opportunities early in the process and be open-minded. A variety of experiences is valuable…these kids are still young – why not take advantage of a few opportunities?”

An excellent entry point to Gap Year research is visiting a Gap Year fair or starting to look at AGA accredited opportunities online.

2. Good Communication is Essential

Start planning by getting everyone on the same page. Gap Year parent Debra offers this advice: “Take both your child’s and your wants and desires into consideration. As parents, we were not comfortable with some programs, but our advisor was able to find programs that made everyone happy. There are so many programs out there, you can find something that works for every member of the family.”

“It’s all about balance,” explains Diann, whose son planned a Spanish-immersion gap year that took him to Spain and South America. She encourages families to set expectations together regarding accountability and decision-making. It helps for parents to set parameters at the outset of planning and then allow their child the freedom to tackle the decision-making within a framework that’s comfortable for everyone.

3. Research is Key

Planning a gap year is a research undertaking for the student and their family. After her daughter’s Gap Year, Jessica offers, “I think you have to figure out what your goals are and then hang in there until you find the right programs. There are so many choices. It can be overwhelming, but with help you can narrow in on the right ones. I also think it was extremely helpful to speak with the program directors. In one case we decided not to pursue a program that had looked like a good fit from their materials.”

4. Ensure Your Child Has Skin in the Game

“Travel AND work,” says Hilary, who watched her son save money to travel to Asia and Belize. “Make sure the student earns something to help pay for at least some of the experience.” Students can save for their gap time in a variety of ways, including crowd-funding, working or leveraging a special skill. Wendy’s daughter knitted scarves for three months to fund a trip to Thailand. She believes the experience was fantastic for her daughter, including the fact that she earned the experience. “The three months in Thailand was a life changer for my daughter,” Wendy says. “It showed her that she was strong and resilient, that the world is full of kind people… She met lots of people from many different countries and made some lasting friendships.”

5. Help Your Child Mentally and Physically Prepare for Their Travels

Preparing for a Gap Year is a delicate balance of preparation and learning to roll with the inevitable bumps in the road. Perrin’s son spent much of his Gap Year traveling independently in Argentina. She thinks it’s important for fellow parents to realize, “Nothing is ever going to be exactly what you anticipate – but it will all be a great experience.”
Other parents urge successors to, “Apply for a South African visa asap,” or “Don’t forget the vaccinations!” In other words, create a check-list of the things that need to happen in the months leading up to departure. The physical tasks of preparing for a trip have the added benefit of mentally preparing a student for leaving.

6. Step Back and Let the Magic Happen

It’s hard to watch your child struggle on their Gap Year, but allowing your child to problem solve is all part of the experience. Gap Year parent Betsy explains, “Let your child get into and out of her/his own trouble. [Gaining] confidence that they can survive travel misfortunes is part of the beauty of a gap year.”

Genevieve feels the same way: “Parents need to let their kids go…I didn’t hear from my son during the time he was living in his Fijian village, but I thought it was important to let him have the space and make his own way.”

7. Witness the Evolution

We love hearing from parents about the changes they witness in their own children over the course of a Gap Year. Here are some highlights from recent parents of Gap Year students:

“She is more responsible at taking care of her affairs…managing travel, money and logistics. She is more empathetic, and sincerely appreciates the opportunities she’s had in her life.”

“[My daughter] has a deeper sense of calm and maturity after this past year. She developed an even better sense of herself and it appears to have given the time to reflect and further define her own personal value system. She also has a ‘lightness of being’ that I would ascertain comes with the observations she made on her own humanity relative to our earth and how other people live. She has developed a serious desire to have impact which I am sure will redirect her life path from here forward.”

“He knows now that the world is big and diverse. It’s not so abstract anymore. He jumped out of his comfort zone and came to know himself better–and to experience a confidence in his ability to navigate life.”

“This experience was life changing for [my daughter]. She left as a recent high school graduate who waited to be told what to do and returned as a young woman who is confident in her abilities like never before. It helped her find her passion for teaching, for travel and for meeting people of all walks of life.”

8. Parting Words

Perhaps Gap Year parent Ann says it best: “You will never regret giving your child this opportunity.”

Julia Rogers is the Founder of EnRoute Consulting, a firm dedicated to providing mentorship and logistical support for young people who take gap years before or during college. Over the past ten years, Julia has become an expert in her field by advising hundreds of students, as well as personally visiting gap year programs in over twenty countries. She works with high schools, colleges, service-learning organizations, non-profits, government entities and families to further experiential education and ethical travel.

Building Gap Year Skills Before You Go

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Most students think that their Gap Year starts the day they board their flight. In reality, your Gap
Year starts the day you commit to taking it. From there on, the entire planning process is a skill-
building opportunity that regularly pushes Gappers out of their comfort zones. For perhaps the
first time in your life, you’ll be managing a budget, researching destinations, signing up for Gap
Year programs, and sorting out the minor details of the adventure ahead. It’s a lot to process,
isn’t it?

To get the most out of a Gap Year, you’ll want to start establishing travel skills and challenging
yourself before even leaving home. Create the ultimate adventure and build confidence in your
skills by doing the following:

Take Charge!

This is YOUR Gap Year. Not your bestie’s, not a Gap Year organizer’s, and not your mom’s. It is
the responsibility of each student to personalize their own trip to fit their goals. Only you can know
exactly what kind of Gap Year would work best for you, so it should be up to you to mastermind
the adventure.

Would you rather work with wildlife in Africa or volunteer as a teacher in South
Korea? What jobs are available locally to help you get started with funding? Gappers who take
charge of their own planning process and savings will get so much more out of their Gap Year.

Planning your own adventure can:

  • Boost excitement and inspiration for the adventures ahead
  • Improve personal awareness of the next step in your planning process
  • Increase your confidence and independence
  • Allow for a flexible schedule… plan what you want to do, when you want to do it
  • Teach financial management skills

When students take charge of planning and funding their own Gap Year, it becomes truly theirs.
After months of hard work and research, this gap year is your baby. There’s a feeling of
tremendous success and accomplishment that comes with pulling off your first big adventure.

Go on a “Test-Run”

Never traveled before, or only traveled with family, or in a group? Think about taking a test run
before the main event. Test out your travel and planning skills with a weekend trip away. Trust me, there’s no better way to find the kinks in your planning system than to put them to the test!

  • Does your backpack work?
  • Have you packed a dozen things you’ll never actually use?
  • Can you read a map and navigate a bus transfer?
  • Do your shoes work, or will you need to buy a new pair?

A test run is a safe and easy way to gain confidence, find the flaws in your gear, and to
challenge yourself while home is still close by. Keep track of any fails or problems you discover
along the way and find solutions before your big take-off date.

Set Monthly Personal Growth Goals

Ideally, Gappers set themselves a series of goals – some help with planning the actual details of
the Gap Year, others encourage personal confidence-building as the departure date grows
closer. Setting these goals requires quite a bit of introspection, so set aside time to think about
what you want to get out of your time abroad and what you want to know before you get started.

  • What are you afraid of?
  • What do you most want to accomplish over the next year?
  • Take it a step farther: how can you start today?
  • What can you do now to push yourself out of your comfort zone and find your feet?
  • What makes you nervous about your upcoming Gap Year?

In all likelihood, there’s a way to challenge those fears before leaving home.

Afraid of navigating transit? Take day trips alone or with a friend.

Worried about the language barrier? Start taking classes with Duolingo or a local language

Scared of culture shock? Learn as much about the culture as possible before leaving.

Learn Some Gap Year Safety Basics

There’s nothing like some basic safety knowledge to take away fear of the unknown and boost
the overall success of a Gap Year! Did you know that international travel is far safer than the
naysayers would have you believe? Well planned Gap years are relatively low in risk and high in potential benefits. For
more info, check out our Data & Benefits page.

According to the stats, travel outside of the US is generally quite safe. Even so, it’s a good idea to have some safety knowledge under your belt:

Communication! Stay in touch with family and friends, let people know your plans, and know
emergency phone numbers.

Health insurance! Invest in good travel health insurance and know the medical situation in your
destination country.

Plan your accommodation in advance by at least a day or two. Avoid arriving at night without
booked accommodation.

Stay away from any protests or demonstrations. In some countries, it’s illegal for you to
participate or even watch.

Know basic first aid, even if your Gap Year won’t be international.

Avoid binge-drinking and drugs. A party year isn’t a Gap Year.

Keep track of your passport and documents. Make copies, in case something goes missing.

Want to learn more Gap Year safety hacks? We have just the post for you.

Prepare Yourself With Realistic Expectations

Gap Years aren’t always a walk in the park. Prep yourself for an upcoming Gap Year by reading
everything out there on your destination, the experiences of other Gappers, the program(s)
you’ve signed up for, and more. Understand that homesick days are inevitable and that a Gap
Year is a challenge, not a vacation. Just understanding this can help Gappers find their courage
in hard times and push through to reap the benefits of an amazing year. Trust me, it will be
worth the work.

Last but not least, never give up!

Set goals and knock them out, dream big, and watch as all of the hard work pays off. You absolutely can do this.

Parents: How to Help

So how do you encourage your Gap Year student? Keep in mind that this is your kid’s Gap Year, not yours.

The best way to be supportive of their adventure is to be interested and positive about their progress, but NOT to take charge. Don’t helicopter.

Students get the most out of their Gap Years when they’re the ones to plan, self- motivate, and fund the year. Encourage your teen to plan a gap year itinerary that will further their educational and personal goals. Talk to them about their ideas and their passions, encourage problem-solving instead of providing solutions to challenges.

Finally, encourage your Gapper to fund their future adventure themselves, even if you could help significantly. Gap Year
students who fund their own time abroad learn valuable skills that will help them into adulthood.

Essentially, your job now is to facilitate learning, from the sidelines! Hand over the reins, provide
encouragement, but be insistent that this Gap Year be their baby, not yours.

More tips on Gap Year parenting.

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