A gap year traditionally has pertained to prospective college students who wanted to take some time off prior to beginning their post high school education. Some college students looking for a break during the college years, and college grads have found the gap year experience to be an attractive alternative more recently.  Although pre-college students typically postpone college for a year, gap programs need not last a complete year. Some high school students elect to start college in the spring and complete a six month experience in the interim after graduation. Gap year programs offer a multitude of potential benefits. High school grads may increase their readiness for the rigors of college and need this time to gain maturity. While they are unencumbered by the responsibilities of adult life, many young people want the opportunity to explore different parts of the country or world. Gap year programs can help participants to explore career options, clarify values, and develop skills which will help them to be successful in college, or the work world after college. The gap year can help individuals to focus their energies on academics or career upon their return by quenching these desires to get away.

Gap year programs

High school students who plan to participate in a gap year experience will need to investigate the options for deferring admission at target schools, or be ready to engage in the admissions process during their gap year. They will benefit from meeting with counselors, securing recommendations, drafting essays, researching college matches, and visiting some schools even in case high school students don't formally apply to college during their senior year. A wide range of gap programs exist, including those with a focus on national/international service, art, cultural/linguistic immersion, outdoor education, the environment, health, hunger, homelessness, organic farming, and the sea. With fees and expenses commonly ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, gap year programs can be quite expensive.  Some programs provide fundraising packets so prospective participants can seek support from family, friends, and community organizations. AmeriCorps does not charge any fees, and offers thousands of opportunities for young people to engage in short term experiences. Participants receive a modest stipend to cover living expenses and healthcare benefits. Housing is sometimes provided. A major benefit of the program is the opportunity to earn an award to help fund subsequent education. There is currently a group of 112 colleges that will match the Segal Award with funding of their own in addition to this. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 created a Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and an Income-Based Repayment plan (IBR) for the repayment of federal loans. The Income-Based Repayment plan helps to make repaying education loans more affordable for low-income borrowers, such as an AmeriCorps member living on a stipend. AmeriCorps service is also recognized as equivalent to a public service job for the purposes of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. By visiting some sites, you can access a list of participating programs and a schedule of the fairs (in season).