Gap Year Information

Excited about college but not quite ready to start? Each year, students across America are choosing to postpone their traditional academic plans and participate in a gap year experience.

What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a year spent taking time off between life stages. An increasingly popular option, it provides time for traveling, volunteering, learning a new language, or experiencing any number of other activities for personal growth. Typically, students take a gap year after graduating from high school and before attending college.

Why Take a Gap Year?

While there are many compelling reasons to take a gap year, one of the most common is the opportunity for students to explore their interests and develop a purpose for their future. Students can take a break from intense coursework and focus on enriching life experiences.

Whether they spend the year traveling, volunteering, working, or all three, students who have completed a gap year are often revitalized for their return to the academic world the following year. According to David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, taking a gap year …could actually help students succeed in college,since participants may be more focused, mature, and motivated for their undergraduate experience.

Many students also find that their gap year allows them to help others. For students choosing to spend the year volunteering abroad, some of the benefits include:

  • Enlightening cultural exchange between the student and inhabitants of the host country
  • Making a real difference in the lives of the people of developing countries
  • The chance to make a positive impact on the environment.

Gap Year Options

There are no rules when it comes to taking a gap year, so the possibilities are truly endless. Luckily, there are organizations that specialize in helping students organize their adventures. For example, some companies assist with everything from finding a host family, to setting up the volunteer project, to taking care of meals and travel insurance.

Areas of focus students may choose from for their gap year activities include:

  • Animals
  • Archaeology
  • Business
  • Conservation
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Human Rights
  • Journalism
  • Sports

Things to Consider

As exciting as a year off before college may sound, there are several important issues to consider before embarking on a gap year.

  • Whether to individually design a program or use the resources of an established organization—The freedom and independence of a self-designed program may appeal to some, but turning to one of the experienced providers can help alleviate logistical and safety concerns.
  • Students who weren't happy with the results of their college applications might choose to take a gap year to improve their test scores, develop a skill or reassess their list of target schools
  • Thinking about goals—When planning your gap year, consider how taking this time to learn more about yourself and the world can help you grow as a person and prepare to take on further challenges. Going into the year with personal goals will help you stay focused and work toward success, both during your gap year and when you return.


For more information on Gap Year Programs, please visit these websites: