Gap Year or Short-Term Experiences

What is a Gap Year?

The American Gap Association defines a gap year as  “a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with career possibilities.” A gap year is a term commonly used to define any short-term opportunity, approximately 6 months - 2 years long that is viewed as a transitional period between school and career, it can include interning, volunteering, working, teaching, researching, doing a fellowship, and/or traveling.  

Why do a Gap Year?

  • 86% of gap year participants reported being satisfied or partially satisfied with their eventual career choice.
  • Develop skill sets employers seek like: self-confidence, multicultural awareness, communication skills.
  • Explore a career field and/or gain industry-specific skills (for example: gaining teaching skills and experience before deciding to apply for a masters degree in education).
  • Networking opportunities! If you do your gap year through a formalized program, such as Peace Corps or City Year, you gain instant access to thousands of industry professionals.

How do I Choose a Gap Year Experience?

  • What are your goals and what skills you would like to develop?
  • What are you interested in? 
  • What length of time is ideal for you?
  • Do you want to stay in the United States or go abroad?
  • What is your financial situation and how will you fund your experience?

Be aware that scam programs exist, some warning signs to pay attention to include:

  • Lack of contact person available for more information
  • The website doesn’t end with .org or .gov
  • Organization asks for a large sum of money up front

How Does Pay Work?

Paying for a gap year experience varies greatly depending on what you decide to do. Some people get paid a salary or stipend, while others may save up money in order to pursue a gap year experience. Make sure to know what your current financial situation is and plan for how you will pay for your gap year. If you do your gap year through an organization, spend time researching your options thoroughly so you know up front what financial assistance and/or benefits they provide.

Gap Year Resources

There are many different gap year programs, connect with a career counselor to learn more about options that may be a fit for your interests!