Gap years come in a range of prices. While some structured programs are priced comparably to a semester or full year of college, a few of them offer scholarships, and there are also many more affordable independent options. Some of our mentors worked for a portion of the year to save up for travel experiences, and many also utilized work exchanges, such as WWOOF, HelpX, and Workaway, to travel cheaply. Some colleges even have dedicated gap year scholarships or offer fully-funded programs of their own. For more, check out this US News article on financing a gap year and the Gap Year Association’s financial aid resources.
If you do your homework, absolutely. Through strategies like sticking to reputable programs, finding trustworthy travel partners, and choosing destinations and activities carefully, it’s easy to reduce safety risks. If you’re traveling alone, vigilance and research can go a long way. While there is an inherent risk involved in any type of travel (or life, really), the world is often not as dangerous as the news would have us think.
For specific advice about traveling alone as a woman, check out some of our reflections from girls who gap.
Travel is a major element of many gappers’ gap year experiences and one that can be life-changing, but it’s not the only option––there are many other fulfilling and affordable ways to spend a gap year. Local work or volunteering, career exploration programs or internships, online learning, local outdoor adventures, and personal creative projects are just a few examples of ways that some of our mentors spent their gap years.
Yes, probably––but in a good way! According to the Gap Year Association, 90% of gap year students return to school within a year, and statistics from Middlebury College and UNC show that gap year students outperform their peers in terms of GPA. Many students feel burnt out by the end of high school, and a gap year is the perfect time to refresh and find new passions that allow you to enter college with an even greater interest in learning. Often, gappers find that their gap years make them appreciate school even more.
If you know heading into your last year of high school that you’d like to take a gap year, it’s probably a good idea to apply to college before taking it––if you’re accepted, many schools will agree to defer your acceptance by a year or semester, allowing you to take your gap year without having to be concerned about figuring out where you’re headed after it’s over. It’s also generally easier to apply to college when you have peers, teachers, and school counselors there to support you in the process.
That said, it’s certainly possible to apply to colleges (or grad school) while on a gap year, and several of our mentors did so. What you choose will depend on your readiness to commit to a particular institution or course of study and the deferral policies of the schools you’re interested in attending.
Some gappers hire expensive consultants or programs to help organize their years, while others find opportunities on their own. While planning a gap year on your own can seem daunting initially, many of our mentors who planned their own gap years reported great satisfaction and growth from taking responsibility for each of the 12 months. Gapyearly is here so you don’t have to spend lots of money or valuable time discovering your options––check out our list of experiences and reach out to one of our mentors free of charge if you have a question.
While there may be some FOMO at the start of a gap year, in our experience, very few gappers finish their year feeling behind. Many of our mentors report that they felt their gap year was just as exciting and stimulating as their friends’ first year at college. Others say they found themselves in a much better position to take advantage of all that college has to offer after having had a year to explore their passions and refocus.
Absolutely! Many people who take gap years find that productivity doesn’t just mean writing papers, taking tests, and engaging in structured activities. Almost all of our mentors report their year allowed them to learn new skills, broaden their worldview, make progress towards projects of interest, and experience lots of personal growth.
While some types of work and experiences might be enhanced with a college degree, many more can be just as valuable, if not more so, without one. We are so often taught that things can only be learned in school and tend to prioritize this type of learning above all others, but you will be amazed by the skills you gain outside of a classroom. It is a special and rare thing to learn to be an adult in an entirely self-directed and independent environment.
Beyond this, it’s far harder for college graduates to find a full-time job after a gap year than it is when they’re seniors in college––the time between high school and college is unique in allowing students time for exploration but also providing a safety net of certainty and structure to come.
Both are good options and can be equally life-changing. Our mentors, who have experience traveling both alone and with friends, made their respective decisions based on personal comfort level and parental permission. A friend can provide extra security and support while traveling alone forces you to interact more deeply with your surroundings and the people you meet. Which option is most appropriate depends on the situation, and many gappers do a mix of the two.
Many of our mentors found that their parents became more supportive of their gap year once they learned about the benefits a gap year can provide and had their safety concerns addressed––if your parents are still on the fence, try showing them these FAQs, as well as our parent reflections page. Proposing a concrete, detailed plan for your gap year or offering to cover part or all of the expenses yourself can help demonstrate your passion for the idea and may also be helpful in gaining parental approval.
At Gapyearly, we believe a gap year can be beneficial for everyone, whether or not they know exactly how they will spend it. Many of our mentors began their years without a full plan, just the knowledge that they wanted to spend time outside of the classroom and enter college more refreshed and directed. While it’s helpful to have at least a general plan in place before making the decision to take a gap year, it’s okay to leave some room for spontaneity––often the best opportunities and experiences were those we stumbled upon or arranged last minute. This can be a year when you discover that place or passion that completes you.