Gap Year Information

What is a gap year?

The gap year concept, which is already very common overseas, is growing in popularity among US high school students. It provides students a chance to pursue other interests and experiences before they embark on their college career. Most colleges wholeheartedly embrace the gap year model since they find students who take a year off prior to enrolling bring a richer, more energetic, and engaged presence to their college communities. For students who feel their high school years were filled with pressure, stress, and little "down time," this time out also provides an opportunity to recharge from burn-out. Although a gap year is not appealing or right for all students, the benefits are many. They include gaining confidence, focus, maturity, a renewed sense of purpose, and a renewed enthusiasm for learning as well as experiences that help bridge the gap between real world and formal classroom education.

How does the college process fit into my possible interest in taking a gap year?

Students interested in pursuing a gap year typically apply to college during their senior year. Once admitted they submit an enrollment deposit to the college of their choice and then request a one-year deferral, indicating what they plan to do during the time off. Typically, colleges will grant the deferral as long as the student is not planning to pursue traditional academic studies at another institution.

What types of activities can I pursue during a gap year?

The possibilities are truly boundless! The resources listed on the GDS website are simply a sampling of the myriad opportunities that are available. They include formal programs such as City Year and Dynamy to activities such as organic farming and international service projects. A good old-fashioned job is also always a worthwhile option, as well.

For More Information

A Gap Year can provide students a chance to pursue other interests and experiences before they embark on their college career. Please talk with your college counselor for more information.

Gap Year Resources

These links provide information about more general gap year search engines and resources. If you are having difficulty planning your year off, companies such as The Center for Interim Programs and Taking Off will help you arrange it for a fee.

Affordable Colleges
Gap year planning guide with lots of free resources to find programs and internships, scholarships, and answer FAQs about taking a gap year. 

Cool Works
Search database for paid jobs, internships, and volunteer positions. Jobs vary from ski instructor at Yellowstone Park to teaching English in Nepal. 

The Gap Year Advantage
Published guide to planning time off before or during college. Can be found on Amazon.
Extensive search engine for gap year programs. 

International Studies Abroad
Study all over the world.
LearnHowToBecome has an online guide to internships and resources regarding how to secure them.

Money Geek - a Guide to Internships
This guide features:

  • Search tools to find an internship in a specific field
  • Tips and tricks to help you land the internship of your dreams
  • Advice on making the most of an internship

Gap Year Programs

The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts

Study art in Greece and Italy. Courses are offered in two semester-long sessions per year and include painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, creative writing, art history, literature and singing.

Africa and Asia Venture (AV)

Specializes in gap year and short-break volunteering programs in the developing world for those aged 18 to 25. AV's first group of volunteers set off in September 1994 and in the 18 years since more than 5,500 young people from 30+ countries have followed in their footsteps, together contributing over 1,200 man-years of service to the communities in which AV works.

African Leadership Academy: Gap Year

Students spend a year on ALA’s campus in South Africa, studying alongside other African students. The purpose of this gap year is to learn how to make positive impacts on communities in need. During their stay, students will design and implement their own service projects.

Americorps NCCC

Team-based residential program aimed at participants ages 18–24. Participants live in a campus environment and participate in service projects in communities across the country. Members receive a living allowance and an education award upon successful completion of the program.

American Field Service

One of the world’s oldest, most well-established international student exchange organizations, AFS also offers community service programs for high school graduates in several different countries.

American University’s Gap Program

Program offers a life adventure in our nation’s capital to provide focus and build skills to prepare you for college and career success. AU Gap is designed for students who have finished high school and are taking a year off before college. Students are admitted on a rolling basis and can enroll in program for either the fall or spring semesters, or both. Earn seven credits per semester from American University for an internship experience (3 days/week) and a classroom seminar (2 days/week).  For more information on the AU Gap Program, please visit

Brethren Volunteer Service

Faith-based volunteer service with placements for recent high school grads around the United States. Participants receive a small stipend with room and board.

City Year

The City Service Youth Service Corps unites over 1,400 young people for a year of full-time community service, leadership development, and civic engagement. Members can be placed in one of 29 U.S. locations.

Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE)

College-bound high school graduates spend an academic semester or year staying with a family abroad. Participants do language study, volunteer in the community, or intern as English instructors. CIEE offers Gap Year programs in Chile, China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Japan, and Spain.


A non-profit organization that offers nine month long residential program/internships in a variety of sectors - internships range from working with the American Red Cross to working in a French-style patisserie.

Earth Watch

Work with leading environmental researchers around the world on issues varying from climate change to coral reef health.

El Casal Barcelona

This program in Barcelona combines seminars in Spanish language with travel, outdoor activities, internships, and community service.

Courier Program at Frontier Nursing University

The Courier Program provides opportunities for young people to shadow healthcare professionals in rural Appalachia for a period of 1 to 3 months. Applicants should have completed at least two years of higher education and have a passion for service and learning about rural health care. Students should be partaking in undergraduate level courses and must be between the ages of 20 to 25.

Global Citizen Year

A year long program for high school graduates from across America and beyond and support them through a school-year long immersion in communities in India, Brazil, Ecuador and Senegal.

Global Routes

Teach school and work with local leaders on various community projects in Kenya. Finish the semester on a safari in the Masai Mara! Gap-year students may also go on three-month placements teaching abroad while staying with a host family. Programs are in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Global Service Corps

Non-profit group that specializes in overseas volunteer programs and internships in Thailand, Cambodia and Tanzania. Programs include Volunteer Vacations, 2-week introductions to Service Learning, 4-6 week short term volunteer abroad assignments and 9-week to 6–month International Internships and volunteer assignments.

Global Vision International

Volunteers assist in conservation and education projects ranging from teaching literacy and English to indigenous communities in Latin America to wildlife research and conservation in Africa. Programs can range anywhere from 2 weeks to a year.

Global Works

Community service-based adventure travel programs for students and groups. In all of our locations, we partner with communities and organizations to select and implement grassroots service projects that make an impact.

Habitat for Humanity

IAU Gap Year

Students can spend the fall semester in Aix-en-Provence, choose a J-Term program that travels to several countries, travel to Barcelona for the spring semester, and end the program with a six-week summer program in Tangier. Or, students may stay at one campus for the full year.

Institute for Global Learning (IPSL)

Program offers 12-week programs in Ecuador, Italy, and Thailand. Includes intensive language study, community service placements with orientation and support. Room and board provided.

Involvement Volunteers International

Has volunteer placements in more than 20 countries worldwide.

John Hall Venice

An eight-week (January-March) introductory course on art history. Students will begin the course in London, then go on to travel/live in Venice, Florence, and Rome. A very popular course, so apply early.


Based in Jerusalem, KIVUNIM focuses on understanding the history and contemporary life of international Jewish communities while developing an appreciation of other cultures. The program is structured around international field trips every fix-six weeks to countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, Hungary, and India.

The Marchutz School of Fine Arts

A semester art program in the South of France with an immersive experience in painting, drawing, art history, and art theory, with excursions to Paris, Giverny, Venice, and the Vaucluse.

Masa Israel Journey

Program enables thousands of Jewish youth to spend a semester or a year in Israel in any of more than 160 areas.

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

Offers a variety of outdoor courses of varying durations (anywhere from two weeks to one year). Programs range from horseback riding in the Rockies to backpacking in Scandinavia.

PEN America

Internships and fellowships at PEN America offer opportunities to gain meaningful experience at a dynamic, growing nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide.

Projects Abroad

Volunteers can choose from a variety of placements in teaching, care, conservation, medical, journalism, or work experience projects across five continents. Placements are flexible, most volunteers going for between two and four months.

Rustic Pathways

Offers gap year programs to over 17 countries worldwide. Programs include working in turtle conservation in Costa Rica, to skiing in New Zealand, to going on photo expeditions in the Kalahari. Program length varies.

School Year Abroad (SYA)

A secondary-level program which allows students to live with a European or Asian family for an entire academic year while earning U.S. graduation credits and preparing for selective U.S. colleges. Program focuses strongly on home stays and an academic program that emphasizes foreign language acquisition.

Student Conservation Association

Student Conservation Association (SCA) opportunities in a variety of fields and locations, ranging from team-based programs to individual internships in fields ranging from climate change to habitat restoration to environmental education.

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC)

For 35 years, the VYCC has offered residential service opportunities to youth and young adults seeking meaningful conservation experiences. Each year over 250 young people (ages 15-26) do hands-on work in farming and conservation projects via our small crews across the state of Vermont.

Volunteers for Peace

Volunteers do a variety of work depending on the needs of the community – this can vary from historic preservation, to sustainable agriculture, to working in an orphanage. Duration is from 2 weeks (short-term projects) to 6 months. Participants can choose from hundreds of work sites in many countries.

Where There Be Dragons

Program organizes small-group “learning adventures” in Asia, Latin American, and Africa. Gap Year programs run for three months and, depending on the region, can focus on environmental diversity, modern political movements, and traditional arts.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)

WWOOF enables people to live and volunteer on a variety of organic properties. Volunteers (WWOOFers) help on the land and home for 4-6 hours a day and hosts provide the food and accommodation. 

Yachad Gap Year

Yachad Gap Year gives you the opportunity to have the ultimate immersion experience in Israel, by participating in Israeli mechina programs with Israelis your age. The word Yachad means “together,” and as a participant, your Israel experience will be more up-close and personal than any other – because you’ll be doing it together with your Israeli peers.

Young Judea

Year course program organized in three semesters, each in a different and distinct location in Israel and each including academic study, Hebrew language Ulpan and engaging with/contributing to Israeli society through intensive volunteering. “Specialty tracks” ranging from athletics to fashion to culinary arts are also available.

Youth for Understanding

A non-profit group that offers students the chance to work or study abroad in year, semester, or summer programs.

Youth International

Offers 12-week long programs where teams of 14 explore three different countries in one region of the world (Asia, South America, or Africa). Programs focus on inter-cultural exchange, volunteer work, home-stays, and outdoor adventure.