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What is a Gap Year Program?


Instead of directly pursuing employment or graduate school after graduation, some students choose to engage in a gap year program. A gap year is an opportunity to gain professional or personal experience, accomplish goals, and/or explore one's interests in the year or two following graduation. Gap years can range from a number of different experiences, including a career-oriented position within a company to expand career development, a year of travel abroad to build cultural knowledge, or a financed research project of one's own design. 

Gap Year Programs typically include work in the U.S. or abroad in a wide variety of fields such as teaching, advocacy, community development, health care, immigrant services, social work, or sustainable development.  Programs frequently emphasize philosophies of service to others, peace and justice, enhancing international relationships, and/or "the road less traveled."

Many programs also feature a training program prior to the work period, community and independent living, practicing a simple lifestyle, and the ability to defer student loans.  

Reasons to Consider:

Students participate in gap year programs for a variety of reasons.  Some of the more common reasons include a desire to:

  • "Give back" or be of service to communities in need
  • Seek immersion in a new culture (ethnic, geographic, or socioeconomic)
  • Gain insight or address issues impacting a specific community of people
  • See a part of the world from a "local" perspective
  • Acquire professional skills in a challenging work environment
  • Do meaningful, interesting, or different types of work before career-related employment or graduate school

More information:

 Adapted (with permission) from The University of Pennsylvania Career Services' Year(s) of Service/Gap Year Programs resources page.