Gap Year

Your guide to finding the right gap year program. Your guide to finding the right gap year program
with 1,352 listings and over 7,200 reviews for you to explore.

Guide to Gap Year

Taking a year off after high school is a great opportunity to learn and grow beyond your usual routine, beyond your comfort zone, and beyond your school schedule.

If your hunger to travel the world, meet new people, and experience new adventures can no longer be ignored, a gap year program is a great opportunity to volunteer abroad, teach abroad, or attend a language school. Whether you’re intrigued by a whirlwind tour across country borders on multiple continents, or an immersive long-term stay in a foreign city, the best way to spend your gap year is completely up to you!

Gap years are becoming increasingly common for students and young professionals. In fact, many find that when applying for jobs down the line, their gap year experience helped their resume stand out among a sea of equally qualified candidates.

Because of its popularity (and slight ambiguity) prospective gap year travelers have tons of questions on:

  • Is taking a gap year possible?
  • How much does a gap year cost?
  • How do I make the most of my gap year?

Here on Go Overseas we have detailed information, gap year program listings, and great gap year ideas that’ll help you have an epic year abroad. To prepare, be sure to review our library of expert gap year advice before your trip.

What It Is

Ringing true to its name, a gap year denotes a period of time when a student, recent graduate, or professional takes time off (a “gap”) from their studies or work to travel the world.

Most common among 18-22 year olds seeking a break from academia before or during college, “gap years” are no longer exclusive to a full year abroad. This international break can cover a shorter period of time too -- like summers, a semester, or holiday breaks.

Travelers often spend their gap year backpacking, visiting multiple countries, volunteering, learning a new language, or working abroad. Budget travel is common during a gap year, as it helps travelers extend their adventures.

You may be surprised to learn that many gap years are actually spent facilitated by third-party providers who help travelers make the most of their time overseas. These programs are fee-based and often selected by gappers for:

  • Adventurous itineraries
  • Reliable support staff
  • Reputable reviews
  • Inclusive packaging

Since most young travelers are new to solo travel, gap year programs help ease fears and discomforts about traversing a foreign place.

Benefits

Not only is a gap year essential for college students looking to step away from their studies temporarily, it is also beneficial to people who just need a break from their mundane daily routine.

Truthfully, the benefits of taking a gap year are endless. A few include:

  • Gappers get to take control of their year without consideration of pre-arranged daily responsibilities (like homework and studying) while exploring beyond their comfort zone
  • Most people who take a gap year report a better sense of self, increased interest in other people and cultures, and new life skills

Read on to learn why students should take a gap year.

When & Where

When: The short answer is: anytime, really. As humans, we continuously reach milestones in our lives where change or a break is necessary. It is our way of growing and learning as we mature.

You can take a gap year as a high school graduate to get a taste of life beyond living at home (and maybe even discover some new passions that’ll give you direction in college). You can also take a gap year during college, where you can supplement your textbook education with first-hand experiences.

But that’s not all: after graduation, during your professional career, and after retirement is a great time to take a gap year too! Read more about the best time to take a gap year based on one fellow gapper’s experience.

Where: Popular regions include Europe, Asia, and Australia thanks to the array of nearby cities and countries one can visit on a budget, or command of the English language.

Recently we researched top gap year countries based on reviews, popularity, and search trends, and found:

  • Japan
  • Spain
  • China
  • Germany
  • South Africa
  • India
  • England
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • USA

To begin your search for the perfect gap year destination, browse gap year programs by country from our dropdown menu above.

Costs & Scholarships

Cost: The cost of gap years can vary greatly, depending on the program inclusions, length of time abroad, and destination. What may cost just a few hundred dollars for one program may end up being a few thousand dollars for another.

When researching the cost of your gap year, consider a few things:

  • What countries do I want to visit?
  • What is the general cost of living in those countries?
  • How much does it cost to travel between those countries?
  • How long do I want to stay in each country? (How long am I allowed to stay?)
  • What type of activities do I want to experience in each country?
  • What type of accommodations do I want to stay in (hotel/hostel/homestay)?
  • Do I need to hire a program provider to help facilitate my gap year?
  • How much does a visa cost to visit each country?

This will help you choose the best route for your gap year and create a realistic traveling budget.

Scholarships: Scholarships and grants for gap years may not be as popular as getting financial aid to study abroad, but there are still plenty of options.

Some program providers like CIEE and Global Citizen Year host their own gap year program scholarships. Online travel resources, like Go Overseas, feature current gap year scholarships year-round.

You may even luck out with a scholarship or financial aid transfer from your school if you choose a gap year that offers some form of academic credit. If that isn’t a viable option, try searching the web for independent scholarships and grants.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I volunteer abroad for free?

    A free volunteer program means there’s no participation fee. Usually, this means volunteering directly through an NGO or organization, but you may still need to pay for housing, food, airfare, and in-country transportation. Some organizations and projects offer housing and/or food as part of the volunteer arrangement, so it's possible to find a situation that’s essentially free except for transportation costs.

    Others get funding from local governments that allows volunteers to participate without paying any program fees. In some cases, you even receive a small stipend in addition to health insurance, food, and accommodation. Keep in mind, though, that these tend to be longer-term projects, so you’re less likely to find a trade-for-work deal if you only have a week or two to spare.

    On that note, if you go for a free or no-fee program, don’t expect your host organization to be able to sponsor your housing or food. Although some organizations definitely will be able to help you with this, not all have the extra funds to do so, particularly as their priority is dedicating money towards the project itself. By expecting volunteering programs to cover these costs, you may well be redirecting resources from the project you’re supposed to be helping -- and doing more harm than good as a result.

  • Why should you volunteer abroad?

    People volunteer abroad for three primary reasons: to experience culture, to help others, and for adventure. While some of these reasons might seem selfish, we know that what makes meaningful travel like volunteering abroad so powerful is that it impacts the traveler and the community they visit.

  • Is it a good idea to take a gap year?

    There’s no denying that spending time abroad will enhance your resume, give a young person valuable new skills and ensure the experience of a life time. The advantages of a gap year can't be touted enough. But, a gap year is not for everyone and there are other things you can consider -- especially for individuals who are new to traveling, the gap year disadvantages may present huge stumbling blocks.

  • What does it mean to take a gap year?

    A gap year is a semester or year "off," traditionally described as a break from academics. While there is no age limit for taking a gap year, it is usually done between the end of high school and the start of college, or after graduating from university before graduate school or starting a career. Typically, students will seek an enriching experience abroad, such as interning, teaching, volunteering, or learning a foreign language. Others may simply travel and see the world. A gap year is considered beneficial for a number of reasons - adding to your résumé, recharging your batteries to avoid academic burnout, personal growth and maturity, and gaining life experience.

  • What's the point of a gap year?

    More and more, schools and employers are seeing “gappers” as having an edge. Lesson: having the gap year experience will differentiate your CV.

  • Is taking a gap year a mistake?

    There’s no denying that spending time abroad will enhance your resume, give a young person valuable new skills and ensure the experience of a life time. The advantages of a gap year can't be touted enough. But, a gap year is not for everyone and there are other things you can consider -- especially for individuals who are new to traveling, the gap year disadvantages may present huge stumbling blocks.

    Whatever you choose, remember that any time spent traveling abroad will be life-changing. Also, just do it. No, seriously. This is that "sign" you've been waiting for.

  • Does taking a gap year affect university?

    For students who would love to take time out of the classroom, but can’t afford to take a year off, getting academic credit for your gap year is the best way to save time and money.

  • How common is a gap year?

    While gap years are gaining popularity in the US, they are far more common in Europe and Australia. The concept of a gap year originated in the UK in the 1960’s and has long been considered to be a rite of passage. Recent statistics from UCAS show that over 5% of accepted university applicants in the UK deferred admission for one year in 2012. Statistics in the USA pale in comparison, where an estimated 1.2% of first-time college freshmen deferred admission in 2011 to take a gap year, according to the Higher Education Research Institute.

How Go Overseas Works

Go Overseas is your trusted source for travel abroad programs: here you can browse and discover thousands of vetted providers. Just like a trusted travel buddy, we want to help you find the right information and feel excited and confident about your first or next culturally immersive trip overseas. We know sometimes having an abundance of options can be overwhelming, so we have a few tips on how to use Go Overseas to find the perfect transformative travel program for you.

  1. Browse 16,000+ programs: Narrow your search results by using filters, such as program type, location, and length.

  2. Read 46,000+ Reviews: Real people have gone on these programs, and have experiences to share. Read alumni reviews on any program that interests you to get an idea of what it's really like to be on the ground, overseas.

  3. Read 5,700+ Interviews: For any program that really sparks your interest, read personal stories and in-depth accounts from travelers like you. If you'd like to reach out and hear more from the traveler who left an interview, let us know and we'll help connect you.

  4. Browse community photos: Pictures of food, accommodations, adventures, and people (oh, the friends you'll make!) in program community galleries will help you visualize yourself abroad.

  5. Wish List 💙: Not ready to commit to a program? Click the Wish List heart icon to bookmark programs and save them for later. Then, compare programs side by side.

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