A gap year is time used by an individual to explore his/her strengths and interests, and the world around him/her. The gap year generally involves taking 6 to 12 months off and can be pursued during four different points in life. These points are: 1) a year between high school and college, 2) a year during your college career, 3) a year between college and the ‘real’ world, and 4) a year off from your professional career. Individuals who are struggling to identify their talents and passions may benefit by taking a Gap Year to help them continue to answer questions such as “Who am I?”, “Where am I going?” and “How am I going to get there?”.
There are several reasons why students decide to take a Gap Year. Common reasons include: 1.) it allows you to get a break from the school environment; 2.) it allows you to save money from college expenses; 3.) it allows you to obtain meaningful experience; 4.) it provides you with an opportunity to give back to others; 5.) it allows you to see other parts of the country or world.
There are many different options available to individuals who are interested in taking a gap year. Choose one or a combination of several options to create an experience that is meaningful to you.
A myth that individuals have about taking a gap year is that college or employment recruiters will view this decision as a negative one. This is not the case. These recruiters see the gap year as being a valuable and beneficial experience for individuals who are pursuing this opportunity. Through this experience, individuals develop skills and maturity that students without this experience may lack. Pursuing this experience provides you with valuable experiences and transferable skills that can be added to your resume. Also, if you go abroad, make sure to highlight that information on your resume as well.
Pursuing a gap year requires thoughtful consideration and planning, at a minimum of six months prior to when you hope to begin. This amount of time allows you to meet specific deadlines that are common when pursuing a formal program. The following questions should be considered as you plan your gap year: 1.) Why do you want to pursue a gap year?; 2.) What do you hope to gain from the gap year experience?; 3.) Do you prefer a gap year experience that is organized or one that is more informal?
General Gap Year Resources:
Gap Work: Gap Work is an independent information provider specializing in gap years, gap year jobs, gap year vacancies, activities and voluntary work either in the UK or abroad.
Go Abroad: A resource for volunteer, study, work abroad programs.
The Gap Year: A social network and travel advice website.
ScribeAmerica: ScribeAmerica provides “full turn key” professional medical scribe programs. They will recruit, hire, train, manage, monitor and deliver medical scribe services.
Service Opportunities (in the U.S.)
AmeriCorps VISTA: AmeriCorps VISTA is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, strengthen community groups and more.
City Year: City Year is wholly focused on fighting the national dropout crisis in U.S. schools. All corps members must have the ability to work on a team, be a leader, develop leadership skills and be ready to commit 10 months to full-time service.
Public Allies: Public Allies identifies talented young adults who have a passion to make a difference and helps them turn that passion into a career. A 10-month AmeriCorps program offering a full-time paid apprenticeship at a nonprofit organization.
The Student Conservation Association: The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is America’s conservation corps. Members protect and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks and community green spaces in all 50 states.
Service Opportunities (International)
Global Service Corps: Global Service Corps (GSC) offers short-term overseas volunteer programs and international internships in Thailand, Cambodia and Tanzania. Global Service Corps is a fiscally sponsored project of Earth Island Institute.
Global Health Corps: A training program to enhance the professional preparation of students in the area of cross-cultural community health.
Service Opportunities (Faith-based)
Avodah: Jewish Service Corps: Participants live out and deepen their commitments to social change and Jewish life through a year of full-time work at anti-poverty organizations in Chicago, New Orleans, New York and Washington, DC.
Lutheran Volunteer Corps: Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC) is a one-year national volunteer service program. It is for people who want to explore their spirituality while working for social justice, living in intentional community with other volunteers and practicing sustainability in all aspects of their lives.
Jesuit Volunteer Corps: Jesuit Volunteer Corps supports organizations that provide direct service to people who are poor and marginalized by placing volunteers at schools, nonprofits, and other sites around the world.
Vincentian Service Corps: The Vincentian Service Corps West is a faith-based volunteer program inspired by St. Vincent de Paul. One year of service in impoverished areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Work with marginalized people in society, live simply with fellow volunteers and integrate faith into living and serving.
Volunteer Overseas (Alternatives to the Peace Corps)
Amigos de las Americas: Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS) is an international non-profit organization that empowers high school and college students to develop leadership skills and increase multicultural understanding through training and community service in Latin America.
Cross-Cultural Solutions: Cross-Cultural Solutions is a nonprofit working to address critical global issues by providing meaningful volunteer service to communities abroad and contributing responsibly to local economies. Offers short- and long-term volunteer and internship opportunities.
Global Volunteer Network: Connects volunteers with 21 partner organizations throughout South America, Africa and Asia. Opportunities include volunteer programs, training program and fundraising treks.
United Planet: Volunteer for one week, or for a whole year — or anywhere in between. Choose any one of 40 countries. Choose the project of your choice — from teaching to environmental conservation to women’s empowerment — and more!
Teach For America: A competitive, national, paid teaching program for college graduates who commit two years to teach in urban and rural schools.
Match Corps: The Match Schools operate a growing portfolio of high-performing and innovative urban charter schools, widely recognized for their success in preparing low-income students for success in four-year colleges. Seeking to train the best rookie teachers in the country, Match fellows participate in an 11-month residential fellowship teaching program.
Envirolink: A grassroots online community that unites hundreds of organizations and volunteers around the world with millions of people in more than 150 countries. EnviroLink is dedicated to providing comprehensive, up-to-date environmental information and news.
Green Corps: Trainees gain hands-on experience running field campaigns to win environmental protections and public health initiatives. Throughout the year, each trainee receives specific individualized feedback on all aspects of his or her work, as well as local mentorship from environmental organizers throughout the nation. At the end of the training, the Green Corps program facilitates trainees’ placement in permanent positions with leading environmental and social change groups.
The Washington Center (TWC): Recent graduates and those going to graduate school are welcome to build careers in D.C. through an internship with TWC. Hone your interests, decide on your career direction and refine the skills and experience you’ll need to achieve your goals. Opportunities for student internships are also available.
The White House Internship: The White House Internship Program provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. This hands-on program is designed to mentor and cultivate today’s young leaders, strengthen their understanding of the Executive Office and prepare them for future public service opportunities.
These organizations assist in finding short-term work abroad (for a fee)
BUNAC: BUNAC offers a range of exciting work abroad and volunteer abroad programs. Popular gap year destinations include: USA, Canada, New Zealand, Nepal, Chile, Australia, Britain, China, South Africa and many more.
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE): CIEE is a non-profit, non-governmental international exchange organization. For U.S. students, CIEE offers programs including study abroad and teach abroad.
Back Door Jobs: Connecting short-term job adventurers to unique opportunities.
Cool Works: Posts job opportunities in places like national parks, various resorts, ranches, camps, ski resorts and jobs on the water.
Adventure Jobs: Part-time, temporary, full-time, permanent job/internship postings in the outdoor industry.
With permission, Bryants University, Dec. 2014