What is a Gap Year?

In recent years, more and more students have started taking gap years between high school and college, to explore, learn, and immerse in different cultures around the world. At Global Citizen Year, we are here to help you with questions you may have, to help you answer not only “what is a gap year?” but what can taking one do for you as you wrap up your high school experience.

The definition of a gap year put forth by the Gap Year Association is as follows:

“A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

Simply put, a gap year is a time between high school and college where a student switches from traditional academic classroom learning to other meaningful ways of continuing their education. Creating your own personal gap year can be difficult, especially when you may be dealing with housing, travel, loans, language differences, and finding jobs on the other side of the world. Because it is so difficult to create your own, there are gap year programs that have already formulated and built relationships with people all over the world.

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 of travel and personal growth 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 of 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, and it’s often up to you to find your own personal gap year meaning. So when you ask “what is a gap year?” that definition can mean something as unique as the individual that you are — and can even evolve and change into a new definition once you go on one. To define a gap year is to define yourself. What are your dreams and goals that you want to accomplish before you become a college student?



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 answer “what is a 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. Scholarships, loans, and other financial aid are available for gap year students. 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 a real-life experience abroad where you happen to learn lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom. With a gap year, you aren’t just a student of a new culture, you become part of it.


So now that you have a good gap year definition, hopefully you also have a better idea of what an experience like this actually is — and what it can do for you. A gap 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. Work alongside others, 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.


Gapyear.com: www.gapyear.com/articles/10-ways-a-gap-year-can-improve-your-career



What is a gap year?

A gap year is traditionally the name given to a pause in education, taken after high school and before college.


What is a gap year in college?

A gap year is different from a study abroad program, it is a real-life experience abroad — outside of the classroom. Some gap year programs may even allow you to earn college credit as you complete them.


What does it mean to take a gap year?

A gap year allows you to learn as much about yourself as you do about the world, and may give you the chance to improve your education and career opportunities in the process.


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.


More Gap Year Resources