The Gap Year

     It is more common in recent years for students to consider taking a year out of school after high school graduation instead of going immediately to college. Some students take the time to explore another culture. Others use the time learning a new skill or a second language. Still others do volunteer work.

    If you are considering taking a break, we recommend you go through the process of applying to college in your senior year, then in May make a deposit at the college you would like to attend and at the same time request that the college delay your entry for one year to hold a place for you in the following year’s freshman class. Colleges look favorably on students who opt for a year off and in fact, this is becoming a very accepted choice. 

    Gap Year Programs and Other Interim Opportunities

    • AFS (American Field Service) Intercultural Programs, 198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, 1-800-876-2377, <>. For 50 years, AFS has offered high school students and recent graduates a choice of full-year, semester, or summer programs abroad.

    • AmeriCorps Corporation for National Service, 1201 New York Ave., Washington, DC 20525, 1-800-94-ACORPS. national initiative involving people of all ages in community service through full- and part-time programs. In exchange for service, participants receive education awards. The typical time commitment is 10 months.

    • City Year, 285 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA 02116, 1-617-927-2500, <> An AmeriCorps program for ages 17 to 23 for a year of community service and leadership development. Participation includes a weekly stipend and post-service award that can be used for college tuition or other opportunities. The first City Year program started in Boston though now there are programs in ten other cities nationwide (including Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Columbia, SC; Columbus, OH; Detroit, MI; Philadelphia, PA; Providence, RI; San Antonio, TX; San Jose, CA; and Seattle, WA). Of these, Boston has the largest program with over 200 participants each year. The time commitment is 10 months beginning in either September or January. The program helps participants find local housing.

    • The Dynamy Internship Year, 27 Sever St., Worcester, MA 01609, 1-508-755-2571, <>; email: ( A semester or year of education in the form of nine week, full-time internships in Worcester businesses and organizations. The program fees include local housing and a three week Outward Bound experience at the start of the program.

    • Earthwatch Institute, 3 Clocktower Place, Suite 110, Maynard, MA 01754, 1-978-461- 0081,<>. Founded in 1972, this non-profit organization matches paying volunteers with scientific and conservation projects around the world. The cost range is $500 to $3000 depending on distance, length of stay. The average length of stay is a few weeks to a month.

    • Habitat for Humanity, 1-800-HABITAT, <>. Volunteers build housing for low income families. Typically, volunteers work for a few days or a week on construction projects at hundreds of sites around the country. They take volunteers for up to one year at their headquarters in Americus, GA. There are also international projects in which people work for two weeks.

    • Outward Bound, 100 Mystery Point Rd., Garrison, NY 10524-975, 1-800-779-7935, <> . Outward Bound is a non-profit educational organization offering challenging outdoor program for nearly 60 years. Programs range from three weeks to a semester.

    • National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), 288 West Main St., Lander, WY 82520, 1-307-332-6973, <>. NOLS offers wilderness education expeditions in the United States and abroad. Programs, ranging from two weeks to a full semester, emphasize skills mastery and leadership.

    • ROCA/YouthSTAR/Youth Service Taking Action at ROCA (Reach Out to Chelsea Adolescents) 101 Park St., Chelsea, MA 02150, 1-617-884-5555. An AmeriCorps-funded youth service and conservation corps targeting high risk youths, ages 16 to 24, for a year of community service and education. Participants earn a stipend and scholarship.

    Books and Literature 

    • Taking Time Off: Inspiring Stories of Students Who Enjoyed Successful Breaks From College and How You can Plan your Own, by Colin Hall and Ron Lieber, New York, Noonday Press, 1996; available at Cary Library and most book stores.

    • Advisory List of International Education, Travel and Exchange Programs

    • The Young American’s Scholarship Guide to Travel and Learning Abroad

    • The Teenagers Guide to Study, Travel and Adventure Abroad

    • Travel Abroad magazine