Gap Year

How to Take a Gap Year, According to USA Gap Year Fairs Experts

Experts at USA Gap Year Fairs explain how to set off on a meaningful gap year abroad. Discover the various programs available and what they have to offer.

Woman sitting on top of Machu Picchu.

Maybe you’re feeling burnt out after high school or college, or maybe you just can’t imagine another year of remote learning. Maybe you’re curious about exploring an extracurricular passion, or maybe you’re just ready for a sense of adventure. No matter what inspired you to consider gap time, there’s a gap program to help you get where you’re going, and USA Gap Year Fairs is here to help.

For the past 14 years, USA Gap Year Fairs has partnered with US high schools to educate, inspire, and empower students to look beyond the classroom and pursue opportunities for experiential learning. In 2021, we adapted our in-person fairs to a virtual format to make gap year planning that much more accessible during the global health crisis.

Typically, the fairs kick off with a lecture from an accredited gap year counselor, who covers the benefits of taking gap time, the basics of gap year planning, and a few of the options available for students. Then, students, their families, and educators are invited to meet with gap year program providers and explore the incredible diversity of experiential education opportunities.

Gap Year 101

Who takes a gap year? How do you plan a gap year? What kind of gap year is right for you?

All of these are big questions that can be intimidating for families that are new to experiential education. Luckily, there are gap year counselors who have made it their mission to support students and their families through the gap year process. Much like college counselors, these professionals know the gap year field inside and out, and are prepared to help you plan gap time that best fits your unique interests and goals.

Meet the USA Gap Year Fairs counselors at our 2021 Crash Course “Ask an Expert” panel!

Meet the Programs

Whatever your combination of interests, skills, and goals, there is a perfect gap year program to help you have the educational experience of a lifetime. Explore below to see a quick overview of the types of programs that you could choose to participate in during your gap time.

Gap Year as Career Exploration: Teach, Internships, & Work Exchange

Build your resume with a semester or year gaining professional experience. Meet with providers offering a host of domestic, international, and virtual opportunities to grow your confidence, develop your skillset, and collaborate with teams around the world.

Learn more about which programs offer opportunities in career development from our themed panel on career exploration:

Gap Year in the Wild: Outdoor Experience & Adventure Trips

Whether you’re eager to study indigenous cultures while camping the Pacific Northwest, earn Wilderness First Responder Certification while climbing in the Southwest, or learn to SCUBA dive in the Caribbean, this is your opportunity to explore your options for adventure.

Learn more about which programs take you deep into the wilderness from our themed panel on outdoor experiences and adventure trips:

Arts Abroad: Gap Year in the Arts

Are you dreaming of taking a gap year to pursue your passion for arts and culture? Work alongside other young artists to develop your skills and study art theory and history while enjoying a view of the Irish countryside or wandering through galleries in Italy to immerse yourself in living history.

Learn more about your opportunities for artistic immersion from our themed panel on gap year arts programs:

College Credit & Language Learning During Gap Time

Are you tired of online learning, but worried about “falling behind” your peers? Learn how you could embrace experiential learning by spending 2021 conducting research at sea, studying Mandarin in China or trekking through Latin America or Oceania -- all while earning college credit.

Learn more how you can think beyond the classroom from our themed panel about college credit and language learning during gap time:

Gap Year in Sustainability, Conservation, & Social Justice

Now more than ever, youth are passionate about dedicating themselves to meaningful action. If you’re dreaming of spending your gap time learning from powerful mentors and driving positive change, consider joining a gap year cohort that will help you build leadership skills.

Learn more about how you can make the most of your gap time and make a difference from our themed panel on gap time in sustainability, conservation, and social justice:

In Conclusion

Gap years are all about stepping out of your comfort zone and off the beaten path, and that can be overwhelming. You’ve just finished the grueling process of college applications, and it’s intimidating to consider the hundreds of gap year programs, travel insurance, college deferrals, budgeting, and all the other unexpected details that go into planning a year of experiential learning.

When you’re ready to start that process, we’re here to help. Browse the archives of articles and guides, watch our recordings from the 2021 USA Gap Year Fair series, or download the 2021 Program Guide for more information. If you’re planning ahead and would like to stay up-to-date on our next virtual event series and annual scholarships, sign up here to join our mailing list.

Best of luck on your gap year journey!