Whether doing public service through a program like City Year, experiencing life in another country, or learning about career options, the term “gap year” refers to the year in which high school graduates defer college to explore their interests. Although common to British and Australian students, Americans are just beginning to see and accept the benefits of a gap year.
There is a common misconception that taking a year off before college will look bad on a resume or college application. This is not true. Some colleges, including Harvard University, appreciate the benefits a gap year offers as it helps “round-out” a student’s overall learning experience while allowing the student to temporarily defer beginning their first year of college. Admission representatives also recommend that students reach out to admission offices to learn about how they use the gap year in reading an application.
Students who take a gap year often return to school energized with a renewed appreciation for education.
Gap Year Benefits:
AFS Intercultural Programs, a nonprofit organization with over 60 years of experience in international student exchange, offers Gap Year programs in over 25 countries. Whether you want to go abroad for a summer, semester, or year, there are many AFS options to choose from: study at a high school or university, immerse yourself in a new culture and language, or work on a community service project! Whichever path you take, an AFS Gap Year program will be rewarding and enlightening. AFS also offers hosting of international students and summer, semester, and year long programs abroad for students still in high school.
Amigos International offers authentic immersion and volunteer programs in Latin America. In this program, participants will volunteer with local residents on sustainable service projects, improve Spanish by living with a host family, and complete an internship at a local organization.
The Center for Cross-Cultural Study (CC-CS), which has provided unique study abroad experiences for 40 years, offers high school students the opportunity to engage in Spanish culture and language while obtaining college-level credit. With summer programs and gap semester/academic year options in Seville, Barcelona, and Alicante, Spain, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cordoba, Argentina, Havana, and Cuba, CC-CS encourages Gap Year students to join in an in-depth cultural immersion experience. Studying abroad with CC-CS involves home stays, excellent professors, and interesting classes. Academically rigorous in-class instruction is enriched with cultural visits to places of interest.
The Center for Interim Programs is a consulting service that helps young people find meaningful Gap Year placements. Since its inception in 1980 as the first organization of its kind in the United States, Interim has designed creative Gap Year opportunities for over 5,700 young people. They have built relationships with organizations worldwide and they offer a database of over 5,600 program opportunities.
City Year was founded on the belief that young people can change the world. City Year’s vision is that, one day, a year of service will become an opportunity for and common expectation of every young person. City Year’s signature program, the City Year youth service corps, each year unites more than 1,400 young people age 17-24 for a demanding year of full-time community service, leadership development, and civic engagement. These young leaders come from diverse backgrounds and put their idealism to work by tutoring and mentoring school children, reclaiming public spaces, and organizing after-school programs and school vacation camps. They also organize the Starfish Corps, Young Heroes, and City Heroes programs.
Class Afloat offers the unique opportunity to sail around the world for a Gap Year or for university courses through Acadia University. Each year, 40 Gap Year and freshman students join Class Afloat for 10 months on board a beautiful, historical class A tall ship. They visit over twenty ports of call, experience diverse cultures, and discover the world. Drawing upon the social dynamics of life and working in the microcosm of a sailing ship and first-hand explorations in the macrocosm of the planet, Class Afloat students forge new standards in leadership, personal development and academic excellence.
Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) offers U.S. high school graduates a unique way to explore the world. A Gap Year Abroad with CIEE offers college-bound graduates an opportunity to acquire a broader global perspective, foster independence and gain self-knowledge. Students seeking to stretch intellectually, explore new vistas, develop leadership and become responsible global citizens are ideal candidates for a CIEE Gap Year. The program offers language study, immersion home stay, community service, and cultural excursions in France, Spain, Dominican Republic, Chile, Japan, and China. Programs are designed for new and experienced language learners, preparing participants for future university study. CIEE, the leading U.S. non-governmental international education organization, creates and administers a variety of programs that allow high school students, university students and graduates, and educators to study and teach abroad. Program supervision and program leaders are part of the CIEE international infrastructure, with faculty and staff in 40 countries around the world.
Dynamy Internship Year is the oldest and only residential internship program in the country. Their mission is to offer young people, ages 17-22, a transformational Gap Year (or semester) opportunity. Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, Dynamy Internship Year integrates full-time mentored internships in over 240 organizations with urban and backcountry leadership experiences, personal and college/career advising, city apartment living, optional college seminars and the company of a remarkable group of peers.
GapSmart! is a consulting firm that is seeking to help connect students to the Gap Year organization that best fits their needs. The founder did two years AmeriCorps *NCCC after graduating from UNH and found it to be a tremendously important experience for him and helped him find life direction. His goal is to get every high school senior to take a Gap Year before attending college and again after graduating college. This company was started from his passion for the Gap Year.
The Gap Year Association offers a list of gap year programs, as well as advice for students and families. This is a great resource to use as you begin a search into possible programs.
Map the Gap International (MTGI) offers structured service-learning programs that combine language and cultural immersion, community service, and sociopolitical insights from experts to create a meaningful and impacting adventure for students. Programs in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Italy include 3 weeks of intensive language study, followed by ongoing language support; 8-10 cultural and recreational excursions; community service placements with orientation and support; presentations from experts about issues affecting the communities served; room and board (usually home stay); international health insurance coverage; transportation to and from airport in host country, as well as for all planned activities; 24-hour local support; and possible college credit.
United Planet Gap Year’s mission is to build “a community beyond borders” everyday. The core principle of United Planet’s programs is the concept of Relational Diplomacy – recognizing that the relationships and interactions between people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds comprise the primary force for uniting the world. In pursuit of relational diplomacy, United Planet volunteers can work in over 35 countries around the globe either on a short-term basis (1-12 weeks) or a long-term basis (6-12 months). Projects include Teaching, Women’s Empowerment, Environmental Projects, Orphanage Projects, Healthcare Projects, and Construction Projects.
Rustic Pathways offers Gap Year experiences in every country where they operate, encompassing most of Asia, Africa, The South Pacific, Central and South America. Within these regions they have extensive knowledge and resources available to create an endless array of extraordinary community service, language immersion, and cross-cultural adventures programs. Participants can arrange Rustic Pathways Gap Programs that last anywhere from a few weeks to fifteen months or more!
The Warrior's Academy is a year-long program that focuses on experiential, outdoor education throughout South Africa, Mozambique, and Swaziland. Each Quest is a stand-alone program and participants can choose the combination that suits their interests. Quests are a blend of activities and supportive tasks, which provides participants with a dynamic and adventurous experience.
The Woolman Semester welcomes high school juniors, seniors, and first-year postgraduates who are taking a Gap Year from all over the country for a single semester. Similar to a semester-abroad concept, the Woolman Semester immerses students in the studies of peace, social justice, and sustainable living on a 230-acre rural campus in Northern California. Project based course work and off-campus opportunities facilitate personal growth and leadership skills through self-exploration and an intellectual commitment to being an informed global citizen. Quaker education is informed by the values of peace, equality, honesty, community, simplicity, and stewardship of the Earth.
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Each year, more and more high school seniors are deciding to take a year off from academic studies before entering college; this is known as a “gap year.” There are many reasons why a senior might want to take a gap year; however, seniors interested in the gap year usually share one goal: they want to set themselves up to have a rewarding college career and life experience. There are many great year long programs that can help a recent graduate achieve this goal, City Year being right at the top of that list.
City Year is a nonprofit organization that unites young people (ages 17-24) of all backgrounds for a demanding year of full-time service. As tutors, mentors, and role models, these idealistic leaders make a difference in the lives of children and transform schools and neighborhoods in 19 locations across the US. Frank Balantic, Plymouth State University class of 2012 alumnus and a corps member from the 2007-2008 service year, said,
My City Year has been the greatest year of my life, not only because I have established many great friendships and met people from all over the country, but because it helped shape me into a better person. Many of my friends went to college only to drop out first semester because they were confused, or because they were not yet ready for the college environment. I know that after my year with City Year, my college experience will be much more successful than if I were to have done college right after high school.
City Year helps its corps members, like Frank, to become more active and involved citizens and community leaders by developing communication, research, organizational, leadership, and public speaking skills all while working in a diverse team environment.
City Year also offers many other great benefits to all of the full-time corps member volunteers. Each corps member receives a weekly living stipend, uniform provided by The Timberland Company, cell phone provided by T-Mobile, and health insurance while enrolled in the program. Additionally, each corps member receives a $5,350 education award after completion of the program. If a gap year sounds interesting to you and you would like more information, please contact Ted Wing at either 603-773-1862 or Email Ted Wing. You can also find more information at cityyear.org/.
A post-graduate year is a year beyond high school graduation, spent at an independent school. Some students will consider doing a post-graduate year in order to better prepare themselves for college in a number of different areas. Reasons for pursuing a post-graduate year vary amongst students. Some students know early on that they would like to pursue a post-graduate year and don't go through the college application process at all, while others decide to consider both options. Still others go through the college application process and then realize that they are not pleased with their college options and would like another year to strengthen their credentials for colleges.
In any of these cases, the post-graduate year is a worthwhile option to consider. The PG year allows a student to strengthen themselves academically or socially, provides another year of academic preparedness, and helps students strengthen their study skills and time management skills. A PG year can also be used to strengthen athletic ability to pursue a sport in college or help attain an athletic scholarship. These are all valid reasons for pursuing a post-graduate year.
Many independent schools offer PG options, usually to a select group of 10-20 students who are essentially members of the senior class. As post-graduates, these students will have already earned a high school diploma so they will be making academic choices that will enhance their profile for college by maybe filling in gaps on their prior transcript or taking some more advanced courses. Some schools will have select requirements for their post-graduate programs.
There are a few things to keep in mind. While a PG year can be an amazing experience, it is often difficult at first for post-graduate students to still be in high school when many friends have gone off to college. However, students should appreciate the PG year as a step which leads them closer to their goals. Therefore, they should embrace the experience at a new school just as their friends will. And, students now have an opportunity to visit their friends to get a better picture of how different campuses compare. You may also be more attractive as a candidate due to your enhanced profile and demonstrated ability to do more demanding work. It's important to remember that you are only spending one year at this school so you have to make the most of it. You will no sooner be on campus than you will have to think about the next group of schools to which you will apply. It's important to get engaged on campus academically and socially so that you feel you are a part of the school.
Ultimately, while your college list may not change considerably from doing a post-graduate year, you will change as a student. That is to say, you may be applying to some of the same schools you would have applied to before, but you will be much better prepared to do the work when you arrive at college.
Brewster Academy - 9-12, PG - Wolfeboro, NH
Holderness School - 9-12, PG - Plymouth, NH
Kimball Union Academy - 9-12, PG - Meriden, NH
The New Hampton School - 9-12, PG - New Hampton, NH
Phillips Exeter Academy - 9-12, PG - Exeter, NH
Proctor Academy - 9-12, PG - Andover, NH
The White Mountain School - 9-12, PG - Bethlehem, NH
Bershire School - 9-12, PG - Sheffield, MA
The Cambridge School of Weston - 9-12, PG - Weston, MA
Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall - 9-12, PG - Waltham, MA
Cushing Academy - 9-12, PG - Ashburnham, MA
Deerfield Academy - 9-12, PG - Deerfield, MA
Northfield Mount Hermon School - 9-12, PG - Mount Hermon, MA
Phillips Academy Andover - 9-12, PG - Andover, MA
Wilbraham & Monson Academy - 9-12, PG - Wilbraham, MA
The Williston Northampton School - 9-12, PG - Easthampton, MA
The Winchendon School - 9-12, PG - Winchendon, MA
Avon Old Farms School (All Boys) - 9-12, PG - Avon, CT
Canterbury School - 9-12, PG - New Milford, CT
Cheshire Academy - 9-12, PG - Cheshire, CT
Choate Rosemary Hall - 9-12, PG - Wallingford, CT
The Gunnery School - 9-12, PG - Washington, CT
The Hotchkiss School - 9-12, PG - Lakeville, CT
Kent School - 9-12, PG - Kent, CT
The Loomis Chaffee School - 9-12, PG - Windsor, CT
Pomfret School - 9-12, PG - Pomfret, CT
Salisbury School - 9-12, PG - Salisbury, CT
South Kent School - 9-12, PG - South Kent, CT
The Taft School - 9-12, PG - Watertown, CT