CofC Logo
Ask the Cougar

Gap Year

Online Assessments

image of hikers

What is a Gap Year?

A Gap Year is time used by someone to explore their options and the world around them. There are typically four types of Gap Year experiences where you take one semester to one year off from a certain point in your life. These four points are 1) a year between high school and college, 2) a year during your college career, 3) a year between college and the ‘real' world, and 4) a year off from your professional career. All four of these situations have people who may be struggling to find themselves and their place in the world around them and by taking a Gap Year they can discover what and where they want to be.

Advantages of the Gap Year
  • Have a break so you will not burn out of school
  • Take a financial break from school
  • Gain additional experience
  • Help someone
  • See the world!

What will Career and School Recruiters think? The Potential Employer or School

One concern many of you may have is that if you take a Gap Year potential employers or school admission representatives will look at you negatively. Not the case! Employers are seeing the benefits in new hires who have taken a Gap Year. These people have developed skills and maturity other new hires lack. It is an opportunity to build your resume. If you go abroad state it in your resume and highlight the advantages of that time. Look at this website for some more advice.

Many colleges are also seeing the benefits of their students taking a Gap Year before enrolling. It gives students time to mature and gain some experience before throwing them into a heavy dose of education than they have previously had. Some schools offer the option on their admissions applications while others are providing their students with Gap Year information.

Is a Gap Year the Right Option for You?

Are you . . .

  • Burned out from taking classes or working the same job 8 hours a day for the last 10 plus years
  • Wanting to gain ‘real' world experience before settling down to the 9 to 5 job
  • Wanting to work with your hands and help someone
  • Wanting to see the world

Options for the Gap Year

There are a lot of different options available to you if you are interested in a Gap Year. Choose just one or use a combination to make the most of your experience.

  • Alternative Work Experiences: A job that does not necessary "fit" into your career goals but allows you to gain a wide range of valuable skills and abilities you would not normally have received. There are a lot of different organizations that can help you locate these different opportunities see the below links. Possible settings include: teaching abroad, internships, or part time work in the U.S. or internationally.
  • Volunteering: this can be locally, regionally, nationally, or even internationally. There are a lot of different organizations out there that offer you the opportunity to volunteer your time in community and service projects. Possible settings: building houses and other buildings in the U.S. or around the world, community aid to low income families and areas, or helping out at your local shelter.
  • Learning Opportunities: One option for you during your gap year is to keep studying but to do it somewhere besides your current school. This allows you the opportunity to break the barriers you find yourself in. Possible study experiences include: study abroad in a foreign country or a semester at sea.
  • Traveling: This option gives you the chance not only to see places around the country but also around the world. Possible settings: hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, road trip across the country, back packing across Europe, or camping in the Australian outback.

Getting Started on Your Gap Year

A Gap Year should not happen at moments notice, but begin after thoughtful planning at least six months before you want to start. This lead time will also help to meet deadlines if you are planning on doing a formal program. Think about the following questions when planning your Gap Year:

  1. Why do you want to have a Gap Year experience?
  2. What do you want to gain from your experience?
  3. Do you want your Gap Year to be organized or a less in formal experience?

Useful Links 

Online Resources for Gap/Alternative Year Opportunities

Volunteering and National Service Programs

Environmental Programs and Opportunities

Learning/Educational Opportunities

Gap Year Resources

Gap Year Articles and News

Career Center Resources

  • The Au Pair and Nanny's Guide by Susan Griffith and Sharon Legg
  • Taking a Gap Year by Susan Griffith
  • Work and Study in Developing Countries by Toby Milner
  • Teaching English Abroad by Susan Griffith
  • International Voluntary Work by Victoria Pybus
  • Work Your Way around the World by Susan Griffith
  • The Gap-Year Advantage by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson
  • Invest Yourself: A Guide to Action by Susan G. Angus
  • The Peace Corps and More by Medea Benjamin
  • The Directory of Third World and U.S. Volunteer Opportunities by Joan Powell
  • How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas by Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega, and Zahara Heckscher

To the Parents of Gappers

For some of you it may be hard to understand why your student would want to take a year or so off from education or from their job. For others you may understand it but do not understand how taking a gap year can be beneficial. Below you will find a wealth of information to set you at ease and answer all the questions you have regarding Gap Year.

Lower Banner 2