Gap Year Definition

Gap year programs are programs that help a newly graduated high school student expand their educational experience outside of the classroom before starting college.In a time when college applications are more competitive than ever, and workplaces even more so, college admissions offices are looking for students with real experiences and unique qualifications that will set them apart from the crowd. A gap year can be a great way to do just that.

Aside from its standard definition, gap years can be so many different things. They are lifelong memories, lasting friendships, amazing adventures and real-world experiences that will give you a competitive edge at college. And that's just the tip if the iceberg — there are many things that can give a gap year meaning. A gap year program can be the best use of one of the most formative years of your life, so often it is up to you to find your own personal gap year definition.

What is — and What isn't — a Gap Year Program?

What is — and What isn't — a Gap Year Program?

A gap year allows you to learn as much about yourself as you do about the world, and in turn improves your education and your career. But in order to define “gap year,” it is probably easier to start by defining what it is not. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the concept of a gap year, so let’s tackle a few of them right now.

It's not a "gap."

At Global Citizen Year, we don't like to think of the year after high school and before college as a "gap" in the literal sense. A gap is an empty, wasted space and this time in your life should be the exact opposite. Instead, we think of a gap year as a bridge or an opportunity, carrying you from one phase of your life to the next. With the right design, a gap year becomes a launching pad for success in college and beyond.

It's not a remediation.

It's a selective program designed for driven youth who want to enter college with the advantage of real world experience.

It's also not just for the privileged.

Gap year programs are for students of all economic backgrounds, not just for privileged students to jet set around the world. In fact, 80% of Global Citizen Year Fellows receive financial aid.

It's not just a volunteer program.

While you will be making an impact in the local community through your involvement with a local organization, think of it more as an apprenticeship. The idea is for the experience to teach and benefit you. Rather than coming in to "save" a community, you'll work alongside locals on projects that matter to them.

It's not studying abroad.

You will learn a lot. And you can even earn college credits. But this is not a study abroad program. This is real life experience abroad where you happen to learn lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom. With a gap year you do more than just learn about a new culture, you become part of it.

The Other Side of the Bridge

The Other Side of the Bridge

So now that you know what a gap year is not, hopefully you also have a better idea of what an experience like this actually is — and what it can do for you. A bridge year program with Global Citizen Year is a gateway not just into the next year of your life, but to the rest of your life. You'll experience a new culture while living with a local host family. Discover yourself, hone your leadership skills and learn about global citizenship. Learn a new language — and make a few friends — along the way. By choosing Global Citizen Year, you're choosing to expand your world and joining a lifelong network of people with the same goal.

To learn more about Global Citizen Year, read an overview of our program and envision spending one of the biggest years of your life with us.


You Might Also Be Wondering...

What are gap years for?

Gap years allow newly-graduated high school students to expand their educational experience outside of a classroom setting, before starting college.

Are gap years common?

Gap years have long been popular in Europe, but have been gaining traction in the United States of America, and are now more popular than ever.

What are the benefits of a gap year?

Various benefits of a gap year include:

  • Experiencing a different culture
  • Seeing a new country
  • Learning a new language
  • Meeting new people
  • Preparing for college

What is a college gap year?

A college gap year after high school is not a “gap,” but rather a launching pad to carry you from one phase of life to the next.

Gap Year Resources