The Best Gap Year Programs That Can Benefit Your Future


Are you thinking of applying to one of many gap year programs? There’s no doubt that one effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been an increase in students’ interest in gap years (given that many universities will shift to distance learning for the near future).


But, even without the pandemic, many students choose to enroll in a gap year after high school or a gap year after college. Both employers and school admissions committees tend to be in support of gap years because students learn a lot of transferable skills during their time spent engaged in a gap year program.


For students who are planning on taking a gap year and those who are hearing about it for the first time, the biggest question that arises is what to do during a gap year.


We’ll explore all the reasons why taking a gap year may be the best idea you’ve ever made. We’ll also share some information about gap year programs that are worth considering!



What is Gap Year and Why Take One?

Like the name implies, a gap year is often a year (or it could be a semester or quarter) off from school. Most students take a gap year after graduating high school and before starting college. Or, some may take a gap year between an undergraduate and graduate degree program.


Regardless of when you take a gap year, the choice is yours to make for what you do with the time off from school. Most people who take a gap year end up choosing an activity that will help them excel in their future career or even that will make them a stronger candidate to apply for the college of their dreams.



Journaling and self-reflection while spending time off in a gap year
Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash



What To Do During a Gap Year

Ultimately, a gap year just comes down to a choice of how you want to spend your time. If you have the means and privilege of traveling or relaxing, then that might be the choice that’s right for you. Traveling and taking time off can help you come back stronger and refreshed if you’re experiencing burnout from your educational experiences.


If your goal is to pick up a new skill, give back time, or make some extra cash, those are all viable options for a gap year, too.


Let’s dive into 8 of the most common gap year activities that students choose:



1. Work Locally


Perhaps you want to get a job or continue working more hours at a current position that you hold. Working locally provides you with a way to boost your financial standing and use the money to manage needs or save for the future.



2. Take Online Classes


With nothing more than an internet connection, you can use your time to become an expert in something new or build upon knowledge you already have. Online classes are available in basically any subject area — you just have to find the one that’s right for you!



3. Get a Degree Online


University of the People is the leading institution in the world of online learning. With our tuition-free model and flexible learning schedule, students can overcome the various barriers in the way of taking their next step toward a successful future. UoPeople offers US accredited online degree programs in the fields of Business Administration, Computer Science, Health Science and Education.



4. Volunteer


Giving back your time by volunteering is a fulfilling way to spend a gap year. In fact, there are volunteer gap year programs that manage the logistics and planning so you can jump right in to doing charity work.



5. Non-Profit Work


Perhaps attending a volunteer gap year program away from home or in your community isn’t what you thought of when you wanted to give back. You can also choose to donate your time to a non-profit nearby where you live or even digitally from the comfort of your own home.



6. Learn a Foreign Language


Learning a foreign language is like an investment because it will take energy upfront, but you will reap the benefits for your whole life. No matter what you choose to do in life, a new language will always be beneficial to know as it expands your ability to communicate.



7. Work on a Creative Endeavor


Have you always wanted to write a book or spend time on your art? Do you have a startup idea that you want to allocate your energy towards? Taking a gap year to focus on your own goals and hobbies is a great way to spend your time away from school.



8. Teach English Abroad or Online


Teaching English is a great way to make extra cash. Whether you want to earn a degree in Education or not, you can teach people of all ages and ability levels how to speak English at an abroad destination or remotely by leading classes online.



Gap year wilderness program in Nepal
Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash



8 Best Gap Year Programs

The demand for gap year programs has always been strong. That’s why there are so many different types of programs to choose from, including free gap year programs. Keep in mind, this is just an abbreviated list of some of the best gap year programs for you to get a sense of what’s offered in the market.



1. International Volunteer HQ


With more than 50 locations to choose for your volunteer gap year program, International Volunteer HQ is one of the most popular providers. Given their over 12 years of experience and more than 100,000 volunteers placed, you can rest assured you’ll find the right community-driven volunteer program to be a part of.



2. Gapforce


Gapforce provides a variety of gap year programs, including: community volunteering, adventure travel, and wildlife conservation. You can choose to enroll in 4- to 12-week programs.



3. Carpe Diem Education


Carpe Diem Education is all about seizing education, every day, outside of a classroom setting. With 3- to 8-month programs, you can travel abroad and be able to challenge yourself with the outcome of immense personal growth. You’ll also make amazing friends during your adventure!



4. Impactrip


If giving back in a volunteer gap program in Europe is your calling, then Impactrip has 20 programs for you to select from. You can first decide where you want to volunteer abroad, or you can decide on the type of activity you want to do, like: marine conservation, food rescue, or animal care, to name a few.



5. Pacific Discovery


Take a semester or summer abroad with Pacific Discovery. This gap year program provides students with a place to learn about a new culture and also a framework to grow beyond their comfort zones. Programs are 10 weeks long with an option to extend for 1 to 3 more weeks. Or, students can take part in a 4-week-long summer program.



6. High Mountains Institute


Does the idea of wilderness, climbing, and conservation pique your fancy? If so, High Mountains Institute has a gap year program designed for you. There are options to explore in both North America and South America.



7. Thinking Beyond Borders


Students between the ages of 17 and 20 can enroll in Thinking Beyond Borders’ offerings. The main goal of the gap year program is to prepare students to work in careers that have the power to change the world for the better.



8. Youth International


As a blended program, Youth International gives a well-rounded experience for adventurers who want to give back. You’ll gain cross-cultural knowledge, take part in volunteer work, stay in the home of a local family, and partake in outdoor adventures all while spending time abroad. Choose between short-term intensive programs of 3.5 weeks or full 12-week semesters.



Guy in red shirt volunteering on his gap year
Photo by ray sangga kusuma on Unsplash



How a Gap Year Benefits Your Future

No matter what you spend your time doing during a gap year, you can benefit your future self in a myriad of ways.


For many students, a gap year offers a much needed reprieve from being inside a classroom to really take the necessary time to find their passion and learn about oneself. All of these steps toward personal growth can aid in positioning yourself in a major that’s right for you so that you can work in a career that you find fulfilling and purposeful.


Even if your gap year provides no further insight into your future career endeavors, there’s no doubt that you’ll gain skills that will help you in life, such as independence. Gap years have the power to provide benefits like:

  • Time for reflection
  • Career-building skills
  • A sense of purpose
  • Preparation for grad school
  • Learning a language
  • Credit towards your degree


The Bottom Line

Gap year programs continue to be a popular option for students who have just graduated high school or are thinking about graduate school. The time spent in gap year programs can offer a fresh perspective on your own situation, as well as to shed light on different cultures (in the case of a gap year or semester abroad).


For those who already know their passion or area of interest, you can find a gap year program that is tailor made to help hone skills in your chosen discipline. Or, if you have no direction set in stone, a gap year may be the thing you need to spark a new light that will help guide you forward.




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