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.
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!
Fall departures – apply by April 30th
Spring departures – apply by October 1st
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.