Organizations around the world have recognized the value of young people taking time off to design their own travel experiences or participate in programs that are designed with the gap year mindset.
As the trend towards taking gap years for more experiential travel consistently increases, so do the funding opportunities. You can now find scholarships and grants specifically for gap years, alongside traditional offerings for study abroad, critical language learning, and volunteering overseas.
If you've been struggling to find gap year-specific funding, here is a list of organizations and their awards that you can apply for to help fund the gap year program of your dreams.
Gap Year Crash Course: Scholarships & Funding
Then explore this list of open scholarships and grants:
Where There Be Dragons Financial Aid & 529 Funds
Where There Be Dragons offers need-based financial aid to students that demonstrate reasonable financial need and are excited to engage with communities around the world.
- Any student that demonstrates reasonable financial need
Omprakash Ethical Global Engagement Grants
Ethical Global Engagement Grants support travel, living, and EdGE tuition expenses for exceptional candidates. The expectation is that recipients join the Widening Circles EdGE learning community and then volunteer or intern (online or in-person) with an Omprakash Partner organization, typically for at least 3 months. These grants target different audiences and offer varying levels of support. All share the purpose of broadening access to learning opportunities within Omprakash programs and throughout the Omprakash network. The range of scholarships includes
EdGE Tuition Scholarship: EdGE Scholarships offer partial or full tuition reductions to Widening Circles EdGE participants.
EdGE Travel Grant: For those committed to volunteer for at least three months with an Omprakash partner, with grants ranging between $500 and $1,500.
Crowdfund Matching Grants: Crowdfund Matching Grants offer up to $1,500 in matching funds for EdGE students who are using the Omprakash Crowdfund platform.
- Must enroll on the EdGE learning platform
The RSAA Travel & Adventure Award
The U.K.-based Royal Society for Asian Affairs grants £1,000 to adventurous travelers who plan their own trips to Asia (i.e. no organized programs) and which have a focus on environmental conservation. The successful applicant is required to submit a 1,500-word report of their trip upon returning home. *Please note, at this time the program is not accepting applications due to COVID-19.
- Applicants must be aged 21-28 at the time of application.
- Applicants may be of any nationality but should be normally resident in the UK.
Cow House Studios Gap & Summer Scholarships
Cow House Studios offer several scholarship opportunities for both our summer program Art on the Farm and our gap year program FieldWorks. All scholarship applicants must submit a portfolio that demonstrates an advanced practice. We assess student portfolios by determining how the realization of completed artworks reflects a young artist’s curiosities, concerns, experience, and research. You can read more about these opportunities and the application process on our website.
Verto Education Opportunity Grant
This grant awards students between $5,000 and $10,000 based on their household income, as long as it is under $125,000/year. Households that have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic may also apply for the Opportunity Grant in Latin America.
Eva Gunther Fellowship
The Eva Gunther Foundation offers need-based fellowships to young girls in the San Francisco area who don’t have the financial ability to experience certain programs that pique their interest, such as travel programs or basketball camp.
- Ages 11-18 female who resides in the S.F. Bay Area
The Pollination Project
The Pollination Project gives $1,000 grants to "support passionate, committed people with an early-stage social change vision." Funding can be applied to travel expenses related to the execution of the project.
- Must be running an early stage social change project
Global Citizen Year Scholarships
Global Citizen Year hopes to offer more scholarships and funding to their students than any other gap year program in the world, and is dedicated to making their experiences affordable. GCY offers 30% of its participants full-tuition scholarships and 80% receive partial scholarships. Merit and need-based scholarships available.
- Must be an applicant for Global Citizen Year Fellowship
EF Gap Year Awards
EF Gap Year has awards of up to $5,000 for students in their gap year and semester-long programs. Various scholarships are available for leadership, blogging, videography, and photography. Over $50,000 of funding is available every year.
GoEco Volunteer Scholarships
To assist prospective volunteers in taking part in one of their programs, GoEco, an eco-tourism company, awards one flight voucher of $1,000 and waived fees for a two-week program, plus travel insurance to successful beneficiaries of their scholarships. To apply, you must be currently enrolled at an educational institution to be eligible for the award.
- Aged 18+
- Students currently enrolled in a college or university
Rustic Pathways Scholarships
Every year, travel company Rustic Pathways give away $250,000 to students from across the world. Scholarships are varied and it's worth checking back in after they've been awarded as late-season scholarship redistribution -- where uncollected grants are reallocated to new applicants -- takes place a few months later. Among their scholarships, the most relevant to prospective volunteers are the following:
Service Scholarships: Available to those who have never participated on a Rustic Pathways program before, this scholarship covers most or all of the program fees for a service-learning project with the company and is available to those who demonstrate financial need.
Gap Year Scholarships: Recognizing academic merit, these scholarships are available to cover some of the fees of a one-semester gap year program with Rustic Pathways.
- Merit or financial-need based
United Planet Service Scholarships
Several scholarships are available for those looking to volunteer for a short or long-term period abroad with the non-profit organization United Planet, who work with communities in over 35 countries around the world.
- Applicants must be first-time Quest participants.
- This scholarship may not be combined with any other scholarships offered by United Planet.
- You must be 16 years of age to join
HI USA Explore the World Scholarship Program
If you've limited experience of traveling abroad, the Hostelling International World Scholarship Program is likely right up your street. Awards of $2,000 are available to help young people from the US travel abroad and experience cross-cultural exchange. To be successful, your planned trip must have an educational or service-learning element.
- Be 18-30 years old
- Be U.S. citizens or permanent residents
- Have a demonstrated financial need
- Reside or attend school in one of the 13 metropolitan areas where HI USA has a community presence
- Be planning an upcoming international trip that involves an educational and/or volunteer service component
High Mountain Institute Award
If you’re looking at one of the four High Mountain Institute programs to Patagonia, consider applying for financial aid. Your application must include tax forms from the last two years and will be awarded based on SSS (school and student services calculator) used by National Association of Independent Schools, which HMI is apart of. In addition to tuition and other travel costs, High Mountain Institute also provides discounted gear rentals to financial aid recipients.
- Must be attending a High Mountain Institute program and demonstrate financial need
InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship
The InterExchange Foundation Christianson Fellowship awards up to $10,000 to young Americans who are passionate about helping communities abroad thrive and are eager to learn about the local culture. Fellows identify a project or an organization working on an issue they care about, and with the support of the Christianson Fellowship, contribute their skills and passion to that endeavor for at least six months on-location abroad. This intercultural experience is a meaningful way to help others, improve skills, and gain insight about another culture.
- 18-28 years old at project start date
- U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident
- Participating in an impact-oriented internship or volunteer abroad project for at least 6 months
- Willing to submit blog posts and a written report upon completion
Carpe Diem Education Scholarships
Carpe Diem Education awards $30,000 annually to support diversity and inclusion in its programs. The Access Scholarship provides up to $5,000 for a gap year semester or full-year experience. The Inclusion Scholarship offers up to $2,000 for a gap year semester. The Carpe Mundi Scholarship is for Portland-based students. Grants are mostly need-based, and applications open in January.
- Must be eligible for a Federal Pell grant, must have applied/been accepted into Carpe Diem program
MASA Israel Journey Scholarship
MASA Israel Journey is funded by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel to encourage young Jewish people (ages 18 - 30) to experience the country. They provide scholarships to students on a need-basis.
- Must be a Jewish student, between the ages 18-30, without Israeli citizenship
Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant
For those interested in an Operation Groundswell program, consider applying for financial assistance through the Operation Groundswell Financial Needs Grant. You'll submit information about yourself, the program you want to go on, and why you need financial assistance, and the OG team will review your information to determine what financial assistance they can provide. Applications are accepted throughout the year, so be sure to apply as soon as you apply for the Operation Groundswell program you choose.
- Must be attending an Operation Groundswell program
Keep in mind that the number one thing you can do to boost your chance of receiving a scholarship is to apply to LOTS of opportunities. After all, you only need to receive one to make your gap year possible!
This post was originally published in June 2019, and was updated in October 2021.