Gap Year Programs
What is a Gap Year?
A Gap Year, or Bridge Year, is a period that students use, usually after graduating high school, to explore areas of interest and allow for personal growth prior to attending college.
Why do students decide to take a Gap Year prior to attending college?
Students choose to take a Gap Year before college for a variety of reasons, including the desire to investigate specific academic interests, to have new experiences and adventures, to participate in service learning or community service, to work and earn money for college, to explore career interests and gain work experience, to travel and learn about new cultures, to take a break from the rigors of academia, and/or develop maturity for independent living in college.
How does a Gap Year work?
Most students apply to colleges and universities prior to selecting a Gap Year program or activity and defer admittance for one school year.
How do students defer college admittance?
Students must send a letter to the Admissions office of their college explaining their Gap Year plan. Colleges evaluate Gap Year requests and in most cases, grant deferrals. Letters should be submitted in the spring of a student’s senior year.
Will students taking a Gap Year still receive scholarships and/or financial aid?
Yes, students will most likely retain scholarship awards for one year, but policies vary from institution to institution, so it’s wise to discuss taking a Gap Year with your school’s Financial Aid office. All students must make financial aid requests each academic year. If a student’s financial circumstances have not changed, he or she will probably receive a similar financial aid package as they did at initial admittance.
How affordable is taking a Gap Year?
There are many Gap Year options for students, ranging from ones that are very expensive to programs that are free or generate income for college. Some programs, like AmeriCorps, provide financial awards to participants to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans. Some colleges will match the amount students receive from acceptable programs, such as AmeriCorps.
What factors should students consider when choosing a Gap Year program or activity?
Students with successful Gap Year experiences start with a clear plan. Whether they are interested in travel, community service, independent academic studies, or working, students are more likely to have a meaningful experience if they are thoughtful, focused, and self-aware during the planning process. Students considering organized Gap Year programs should investigate the safety of the program and make sure it’s well-vetted and accredited.
What do colleges and universities think about taking a Gap Year?
Many colleges seem to view Gap Years favorably. In fact, some colleges and universities—Tufts and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example— offer grant funding for admitted students who have meaningful Gap Year experiences.
Is attending Gap Year fairs worthwhile?
Attending a local Gap Year fair can be a useful and efficient way to begin researching Gap Year opportunities and ideas. Go to https://usagapyearfairs.org for more information on Gap Year fairs and dates.
GAP Year Resources
American Gap Association, http://www.americangap.org
Center for Interim Programs, http://www.interimprograms.com
Council on International Education Exchange, https://www.ciee.org
Global Citizen Year: Global GAP Year Programs, https://www.globalcitizenyear.org
Thinking Beyond Borders: The Global Leader in Gap Years, https://thinkingbeyondborders.org
Online Articles Related to GAP Year Programs
White, Kristen M. 2009, The Complete Guide to the Gap Year, John Wiley & Sons