100 Tips, Tools, and Guides for Taking a Gap Year Before College

Posted August 11, 2009

By Donna Scott

Taking a year off after high school and before starting college has been a tradition in many countries for years, but is just starting to catch on in the US. Whether you are in Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire doesn’t make a difference, the advantages of a productive break from school are many and often prepare the student for both college and life in general by exploring a world outside what they have already known. If you are considering a gap year or encouraging a loved one to do so, then the following list of 100 resources will be an invaluable guide.

Benefits of a Gap Year

Learn what can be gained by taking a gap year with these resources.

  1. Should your child have a ‘gap year’ before college?. This article offers insight into why a gap year is important and how to make it happen successfully.
  2. ‘Gap year’ before college gives grads valuable life experience. Find out many benefits of a gap year before college in this article.
  3. The Gap Year. This article offers a brief history of the gap year and why it is gaining popularity in North America as well as resources for gap year programs.
  4. The Gap Year Debate. Many high school seniors are considering taking a gap year in order to qualify for the new financial aid system Obama is putting in place. This article offers benefits and drawbacks of doing so.
  5. Why Grads Should Take a Gap Year. While this article is specifically about a gap year after graduating college, the author includes her daughter’s experience with a gap year after high school that describes the benefits of a gap year.
  6. Gap Year Travel. Learn how a gap year promotes maturity in high school graduates and find gap year ideas.
  7. The Goods on the Gap Year. Find more reasons why a gap year is a good idea for many students.
  8. Mind the Gap: Taking a Year Off Before College. Specifically for parents, this article goes over the benefits of a gap year, what to discuss with your child when considering a gap year, and resources for planning.
  9. A year to save the world. Learn how these gap year students from the UK worked to make a difference in Thailand and Sri Lanka after the devastating tsunami in 2004.
  10. The Benefits of a Gap Year. Geared at young men, but applicable to anyone, this article discusses why a gap year may be important and offers several specific and unique opportunities.
  11. Delaying College for a Year Could Have Benefits. Not only does this article explain several reasons why students might want to take a year off, it also explains why students should jump back into school right after that year.

Planning for a Gap Year

The following articles, websites, and organizations will help you plan for an amazing gap year.

  1. PlanetGapYear.com. This online community aims to help high school and college students prepare for their gap year.
  2. Gap Year Opportunities. From a boarding school in Connecticut, this site offers plenty of helpful information and resources for planning your gap year.
  3. Consider a Gap Year. This resource offers suggestions, articles, online resources, and real people to ask for guidance.
  4. Gap Year Essentials. Find out for what you should prepare prior to your gap year, including visas, insurance, and vaccinations.
  5. Volunteering on a Gap Year. Discover what types of volunteering options may be available for your gap year.
  6. gapyear.com. This site from the UK can help you with everything from researching, planning, and finding travel partners for your gap year.
  7. Mind the Gap!: 11 Amazing Ways to Spend a Year Off Before College. Even if you don’t take advantage of one of these 11 amazing opportunities, they may inspire you for what you will do.
  8. Gap Year: Taking Time Off Before College. Find options, resources, and more in this article about planning for a gap year.
  9. Year Out Group. Even if you don’t take advantage of the excellent planning and booking help available here, they also offer tons of useful information throughout the website for anyone planning a gap year.
  10. iGapYear. Find an amazing amount of resources on this website dedicated to helping you plan for your gap year.
  11. GapYearWiki. Among the many resources for planning your gap year here, you can also connect with others who are taking gap years, planning gap years, or can help you with yours.
  12. International Volunteer Programs Association. This organization offers a wealth of information for those planning to volunteer abroad.

Programs

The following programs specialize in gap year opportunities. Many are based in the UK, but are open to students from other countries as well.

  1. Brown Ledge Gap Year. Learn to make documentaries, use all the necessary equipment, and travel across America with the Brown Ledge Gap Year program.
  2. TrekAmerica. Use your gap year traveling across North America with a small group of like-minded travelers with the arrangements offered here.
  3. CIEE Gap Year Abroad. US high school graduates can spend time abroad in one of the nine different programs with CIEE.
  4. Windsor Mountain International. This organization focuses only on youth travel opportunities that include options for the US and international experiences.
  5. i-to-i Gap Year. i-to-i specializes in volunteer travel and offers opportunities unique to gap year students here.
  6. Xtreme Gap. For those looking for a high-adventure gap year, then check out the extreme sport and adventure possibilities with Xtreme Gap.
  7. Real Gap. Whether you want to do volunteer work, paid work, travel, or adventure, Real Gap will find an opportunity for you in over 45 countries.
  8. The Leap. Let this UK company help you arrange the perfect gap year for you.
  9. Gap Year Ghana. Volunteer your time helping others in Ghana while living in a unique and luxurious house there.
  10. Raleigh. This non-profit from the UK offers opportunities for gap year students (as well as others) to experience a year of personal growth through helping others.
  11. Projects Abroad. Do community service in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, or Africa with this organization.
  12. Rustic Pathways Gap. This organization offers three different gap year programs that are customizable to your desires.
  13. Gap Year at NOLS. Not only can you experience a fulfilling gap year experience with this organization, but you can earn college credits too.
  14. The Center for Interim Programs. The longest-running gap year counseling service in the US, this organization can help you find the perfect gap year trip.
  15. GlobalQuest. This program is specifically for high school seniors, recent high school graduates, and first-year college students taking a break and offer opportunities in Thailand or Ecuador/Galapagos.
  16. GapGuru. From the UK, this organization will help you plan and book your ideal gap year program.
  17. Global Routes. For gap year students, Global Routes offers a three-month teaching opportunity in Africa, Asia, or Latin America.

General Opportunities for Volunteering

While not focusing specifically on gap year opportunities, these organizations will help you find a way to volunteer internationally and at home.

  1. Global Vision International. Offering trips from one week to two years, this company arranges volunteer conservation and community project opportunities around the world.
  2. Edge of Africa. Volunteer your time making a difference in Africa with this organization.
  3. Cross-Cultural Solutions. Specializing in areas of healthcare, caregiving, teaching, and community development, this organization even has a specialized project for teens.
  4. Operation Crossroads Africa. The inspiration for the Peace Corps, this organization offers an opportunity to anyone 18 and older to serve for six weeks of work in an African community.
  5. VolunteerAfrica. This non-profit based in the UK focuses its programs on serving the needs of women and children in Africa and is open to anyone 18 and over.
  6. VolunteerMatch. Let this organization match you with your perfect volunteer opportunity in the US.
  7. Serve.gov. This government-sponsored project can help you find a volunteer opportunity anywhere in the US or around the world.
  8. YMCA Study Tours. These your-round tours will take you to global destinations to learn about each specific region. Scholarships are available for many of these opportunities.
  9. Idealist.org. Let Idealist.org find the perfect volunteer opportunity for you.
  10. Global Works. These programs are all summer programs, focus on teens and young adults, and all include community service and cultural exchange.

No or Small-Fee Volunteer Opportunities

If your fundraising skills are not well-polished and you don’t have a large bank account, then check out these volunteer opportunities that cost little or no money. Be aware that some still require that you pay for transportation.

  1. WWOOF. Work on an organic farm anywhere in the world in exchange for room and board with the farming family.
  2. UN Volunteers. Many of the opportunities here require professional experience, but if you don’t have much yet, look for some of the other options they have for peacekeeping volunteer positions.
  3. Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Volunteer to work on the Appalachian Trail in exchange for primitive accommodations and food.
  4. Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is held in the highest regard when it comes to volunteer opportunities. Before applying here, though, you must be ready for at least a 27-month commitment and realize that the application process is highly competitive.
  5. VSO UK. This organization works similarly to the Peace Corps and is open to anyone who can live, work, or study in the UK or Ireland. Youth placements are for one year and include training, travel, accommodations, and more.
  6. Conservation Volunteers Australia. Volunteer your time to promote conservation efforts in Australia or New Zealand with this group. Room and board is provided, by you may have to pay a small fee.
  7. Kibbutz Volunteer. Learn all about volunteering at a kibbutz in Israel with the information on this site.
  8. Help Exchange. This organization helps volunteers and host families connect for working vacations. Work days can vary from 2 to 8 hours and may include room only, room and food, or room, food, and extras.
  9. Volunteers for Peace. Join a group of volunteers from four different countries to perform community service projects with this organization. Fees are around $330 and include room and board.
  10. SCI-IVS. Work for peace in either a short-term or long-term workcamp with this organization. Fees are around $200.

Study Abroad Programs

Study abroad programs include opportunities for college credits, foreign language learning, and often offer work or volunteer options as well.

  1. GoAbroad.com. Arrange work-study, volunteer opportunities, and more through this service.
  2. StudyAbroad.com. Find study, work, and volunteer options with this company.
  3. Study Abroad. This service will help you find opportunities around the world and also offers advice and resources for your adventure.
  4. Global Student Experience. From a summer to a year abroad, find a wide range of choices here.
  5. AmeriSpan Study Abroad. This company started with Spanish language programs, but has expanded globally and offers a wide range of opportunities.
  6. IIEPassport.org. Select from one of many available chances to study abroad here. The study abroad student center on this site will help you find the perfect program.
  7. International Studies Abroad. While these programs work closely with universities, if you are a senior in high school or have been accepted to a college or university, you can still qualify for most of these programs.
  8. Semester at Sea. Spend a semester at sea, visit various ports of call, and earn credits for college. You may need to have completes some college work prior to acceptance here.
  9. AustraLearn. Study in Australia, New Zealand, or the South Pacific for a semester or an entire degree. Opportunities for high school graduates are available.

Budget Travel Resources

If you need to pay for transportation or are planning your own gap year, then these budget travel resources will come in handy for you.

  1. Hostelling International. This popular organization can help you find a hostel anywhere in the world and offers discounts with a reasonably-priced annual membership.
  2. HostelBookers. Find hostels and inexpensive hotels around the world with this resource.
  3. FarePlay. This site offers travel arrangements just for students with such features as a search by budget and popular destinations with college students.
  4. STA Travel. Get low rates on student and youth travel through this website.
  5. Travelosophy. Specializing in student travel, not only can you get low prices, but you will find plenty of flexibility in reservations, too.
  6. InternationalStudent.com. Find cheap airfare, car rental, hostels, and more on this site.
  7. Student Travel Resources. Get information about travel and specific destinations and book all sorts of travel, including air, rail, and more.
  8. Student Now. Not only can you find budget travel information and resources here, but you can also find information about destinations and more.
  9. Yapta. Plan your flight with this tool and it will alert you when prices drop so that you can purchase the ticket at that price. If prices drop significantly enough after you purchase, it will alert you again so that you can get a refund from the airline.
  10. Backpackers.com. Dedicated to backpackers and others traveling on the cheap, this site helps find hostels, cheap flights, and inexpensive travel gear.

Travel Tools

Be sure to use these travel tools when you set off on your adventure.

  1. ePassportPhoto.com. Don’t let passport photos become a hassle. Simply take a photo at home with your digital camera, then use this free tool to convert it to a passport photo that meets the specifications for over 60 countries.
  2. TripIt. This travel organizer will compile all your travel arrangements and create an itinerary for you.
  3. The Universal Packing List. Enter the information about your trip and this tool will give you a complete packing list customized to your needs.
  4. Weather2Travel Climate Guide. When packing for your trip, click on any place in the world to find current weather conditions with this tool.
  5. TravNotes. Create your personal travel microblog here where you can also share photos and videos, as well as ideas with other travelers or those back home.
  6. YourGMap. Create a custom Google map that shows where you went on your travels or where you plan to go next.
  7. Jumpclaimer! Send text messages while traveling to create pins on a Google map so that others can follow along as you explore the world.
  8. Universal Currency Converter. Use this handy tool to get the exchange rate for many countries when you travel internationally.
  9. iSubwayMaps.com. Choose from cities worldwide to download subway maps to your iPhone, iPod, or iPod Nano.
  10. Free Translator. This app for your iPhone uses Google Translate to help you translate between several different languages.

Travel Safety Tips

No matter where in the world you travel, be sure to follow these safety tips to ensure your adventure stays on track.

  1. Safetrek. This UK site is dedicated to preparing students for any problems that may arise while traveling.
  2. Travel Registration. Use this free online service allows you to register your international travel plans so if your family experiences an emergency or a safety issue develops in your location, the State Department can contact you while you are traveling.
  3. Have travel insurance. Check to see if your current health care plan covers you while out of the company. If not, then secure your own travel insurance through a company like this or this.
  4. Know the laws and safety conditions. While traveling in a foreign country, know the laws and any safety concerns for that particular region. The US Department of State offers an excellent website with information on travel warnings, travel alerts, and information specific to individual countries.
  5. Dress smartly. Don’t wear expensive clothes or jewelry or carry expensive or flashy luggage while traveling. Simple is best and won’t draw undue attention to you.
  6. Know the culture. Understanding a bit of the culture for your destination will help ease any culture shock you may experience and may make your trip less stressful. Also, learning a few basic greetings will make a big difference when trying to communicate.
  7. Know about necessary vaccines. Most countries do not require any special vaccinations, but some places in Africa and Latin America do. Check with the CDC to learn if you need any vaccinations before traveling to another country.
  8. Use hydrogen peroxide to wash produce. Hydrogen peroxide is readily available in many places, or bring some along to help prevent food-borne illness.
  9. Avoid unpasteurized dairy. Make sure any dairy you eat or drink has been pasteurized to help avoid illness that can come from consuming unpasteurized dairy products.
  10. Always be aware of your surroundings. Most of the time you will likely be in a safe place, but a smart traveler is always aware what is going on around her and where she is.
  11. Don’t leave luggage or bags unattended. You don’t want to tempt those with bad intentions. Likewise, don’t hold packages for anyone else.

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