Gap Year Basics

A gap year is a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to explore areas of interest in the United States and/or abroad via one or more planned activities like travel, foreign language immersion, internships, volunteer work, and/or work. For many, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Often students postpone starting college for a year and the gap year is taken between high school graduation and the deferred start of college.


Some gap year benefits – After a well planned gap year, students typically:

  •  Have pursued and clarified their interests through real-world experiences. They are therefore less likely to change majors in college and more likely to finish their Bachelor’s degree in four years
  • Gain insight about themselves and their goals.
  • Are more mature, focused, independent and self-confident.
What kind of student might benefit from a gap year? – Many different kinds of students might benefit from a gap year, including students:
  •  With multiple interests
  • Unsure whether they want to pursue a particular major/career
  • Without a clear academic focus
  • Who are burned-out after high school.
How much will a gap year cost? Gap year programs range from free to thousands of dollars. In free programs, students often get room and board, in exchange for work.
Before taking a gap year – Here are six steps to take before taking a gap year: 
  1. Apply to college. 
  2. Get accepted to college and defer your college enrollment.
  3. Decide on the interests you want to pursue during the gap year and your budget.
  4. Identify gap year programs within your budget, that let you explore your interests.
  5. Check the quality and safety of those programs.
  6. Select and register for the gap year programs, you wish to pursue.
Pay it forward – What is your experience with a gap year?  How did it change you? Who would you recommend it to? 
References – Here are three on-line gap year references that may be helpful: