Gap Year / Time Out FAQs

Also see our Parents FAQ page.

What is a gap year?

A gap year is a period of time when students take a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, intern, work, perform research or any combination of these activities.

A gap year can also be called an interim year, deferring college, an overseas experience or taking time out.

Students who take a gap are also known as "gappers".

When is the best time to take a gap year?

Most students take a gap between the end of high school and the beginning of college. Some take time over summer vacation or even a semester off. Others go after college, but before entering graduate school or starting a career.

Does a gap year have to last a whole year?

No! A gap year can be anywhere from several weeks to a year or more.

What are the benefits of taking a gap year?

A gap year can help you:

  • Clarify your career interests and goals
  • Gain a sense of maturity and self confidence
  • Renew your passion for college coursework and learning
  • Develop your organizational and life skills
  • Discover your interests and passions, prior to committing to college
  • Broaden your perspective of other cultures, views and global awareness
  • Improve job prospects with employers seeking grads with practical experience

    What types of activities could I do on a gap year?

    Just about anything! Volunteering and community service in the US or overseas are the most popular. Some gappers chose to live and study abroad and teach English as a foreign language,or even learn a language themselves. Some choose to explore or travel in the US or internationally, others work or intern in the US or internationally. You could also learn a new skill or obtain a certification.

    What's new in gap year trends in America?

    Gap years are becoming increasingly popular with US students. A number of US based organizations now offer structured gap year programs geared specifically to US students and that number keeps on growing!

    What do US colleges say about taking a gap year?

    Leading US colleges and universities, and notably Harvard University, are openly supporting a gap year for admitted freshman. Many universities now allow accepted students to defer entrance one year. Schools recognize that by taking a productive year out, students enter college with more maturity and self-confidence and better wisdom and experience to handle the upcoming challenges.

    How do I defer my college entrance so I can take a gap year?

    Make a formal request in writing after you have accepted admission. Ensure your request demonstrates a well-structured plan with an outline of the goals and benefits you hope to gain during your gap year. Discuss why you want to defer admission, what you hope to do during the semester or year off, and why you want to hold your place at the college. These requests are often granted, and students go on to do many exciting things.

    What happens to my financial aid award if I defer entrance for a year?

    Colleges cannot extend their financial aid offers beyond the upcoming financial year, so your parents will need to reapply for financial aid during your gap year. There is a chance that the new financial aid offer will be different from the original one, but only if your parents have had a significant change in their own financial status.

    I want to take a gap year before college. Should I even apply for college first?

    Even if you know ahead of time that you may want to take a gap year, you should go through the college application process during your senior year, and chose a college. You can always defer admission for a year and attend at the start of the next school year.

    I'm graduating from high school this spring. What type of gap year program would suit me best?

    A structured, group oriented program may be better for first timers, or students that have just graduated from high school. Older, more mature students may want to have more independent, less structured experience which may include travel on their own or with a friend.

    How can I find out if my college of choice offers deferred admission?

    It's best to call the colleges' admissions office directly to ask them. You could also check out the colleges' web site to see if it is included in any of their written admissions policies.

    I am concerned that if I take a gap year I will be older than other students when I start college

    Nowadays most students matriculate at different ages and you'll also find that many other students will have taken a year out like yourself.

    How much can I expect to pay to take a gap year?

    This is a hard one to answer specifically as it really depends on what you do and where you go. Actual costs range widely and although most gappers don't get paid many programs provide room and board (housing and food), and pay a small living allowance in exchange for work. If this is the case, then only transportation fees and miscellaneous costs need be considered. Some programs require fees or tuition depending on their own resources which can be quite expensive, but remember that a gap year invariably costs much less than a year in college would.

    What are the main obstacles preventing students from taking a gap year?

    Many students do not have an effective plan to cover the costs of a gap year. Others fail to gain parental support. Before you start your gap plan how much money you will need and how you will pay for it. (This may also include working before you take your gap to cover your costs up front). Also involve your parents or relevant family members in your planning process. If they support you taking a gap they will be far more likely to help you, especially if you need their financial assistance!

    Why should I plan my own gap year?

    By organizing your own gap year you are forced to take ownership and responsibility of your plan. You will have to decide where you are going to go, what exactly you are going to do and how you are going to pay for your trip. You may have to make your own travel plans and living arrangements. You are ultimately responsible for all the details that go into making your gap year dream become a reality.

    How do I know if a gap year is right for me?

    Read the following scenarios and see if any apply to you. If so you may be ready to truly benefit from a gap year experience.

  • Not ready for college. Perhaps you lack maturity, self-confidence,or have not clearly defined your interests or career options.
  • Burnt out academically-even before entering college, and want to take a breather so you can arrive on campus refreshed and ready to give your best.
  • Know why you are going to college, but want a competitive edge over other students. You want real life experience that builds your resume, and makes you more attractive to future employers.
  • Haven't been able to chose a major and don't really know what you are truly passionate about.
  • Haven't been accepted to the college of your choice and want to use your gap experience to improve your application and make your more appealing to the school.

    What are some of the characteristics of the students who choose to take a gap year?

    Students who take a gap year tend to be self motivated, not afraid of taking a risk, not bound by conventions and open to explore their interests and discover their passions.

    Will my parents be open to the idea of me taking a gap year?

    Some parents may feel that if you don't go to college directly after high school you may lose motivation and may not want to go at all. Others may recognize the benefits of taking structured time out before starting college and could be very supportive of your plans. However, most students who have taken a gap year return with a better sense of direction and focus on their course of study.

    How can I plan a gap year or time out?

    Plan It Yourself:

    Utilize Planet Gap Year's resources to set your own goals and plan your own gap year. This option typically appeals to students who are clear on how they want to spend their time and what they want to do. For example,if you are on a budget and you want a volunteer or community service experience in the US, you might decide to connect with Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, or The Student Conservation Association.You may want to travel abroad and immerse yourself in another culture or language, and combine it with volunteer service, so you might connect with AFS International Programs, or Cross Cultural Solutions.

    Have a Gap Year Adviser Plan It For You:

    Some families choose to hire a private consultant to help them plan time out or a gap year. Costs and services do vary, and it is possible to spend thousands of dollars for full service professional counselors. For example, a private consultant will charge you a one-off fee to help you explore your interests, narrow your options, provide access to a proprietary database of programs, and connect you with the placement. You may also get follow up phone consultations, and assessments after programs are completed.

    Plan Part of the Gap Year Yourself and the rest with help from Your Parents, High School Guidance Counselor and Planet Gap Year.

    This may work best if you have never planned a trip before, or are planning to take a gap year in more than one location. Use Planet Gap Year's resourses as well as help from a parent and/or a trusted guidance counselor to come up with a great gap year plan!

    What makes Planet Gap Year's site different than other gap year sites on the internet?

    Many internet gap year planning sites are based in the UK and so few organizations are specifically geared to US students. There are a few US based web sites but most of these charge a fee to access their information and search their database. Planet Gap Year is a US based organization that is designed and managed to meet the needs of US students wanting to plan a gap year and all our resources are FREE!