OUT NOW: Your Future in Healthcare 2024!

    4 Strategies to Fund the Gap Year of Your Dreams

    Posted November 21, 2023, 10:34 am by Kay Keough
    4 Strategies to Fund the Gap Year of Your Dreams

    Whether you want to see the world, test out an interest or learn a new skill, taking a gap year after high school can send you in an exciting new direction. But is it possible to have an affordable life-changing experience and still have enough money to return to the even-more expensive world of academia?

    Absolutely, say the experts, and they are keenly aware of your budgetary concerns.

    “But first,” says Jane Goldstone Sarouhan, Co-Founder & Gap Year Consultant at J2Guides, “students need to begin the process with brainstorming their goals and needs. Once they have a sense of those goals, then we take a closer look at the budget and start exploring strategies, scholarships and resources.”

    1. Start and save early

    The first step is talking with your parents. Julia Rogers, Founding Director of EnRoute Consulting, adds “Either way, it's important to begin with some transparent talks about the family budget in the context of gap year experiences. Will parents or extended family contribute to a gap year? If so, how much? Are there opportunities they are willing to support or not? Knowing this from the outset helps students to determine how much they need to fund in other ways to design the best possible year for themselves.”

    “The advice I give students”  says Katherine Stievater, Founder of Gap Year Solutions, “is to fund a portion of their Gap Year by having a part-time job. This could be bussing tables in a restaurant, lifeguarding, working at a retail store, or other local jobs. This has the added benefit of giving students experience with a supervisor and having to show up on time.”

    Sarouhan tells students that they will very likely divide their year up into a few parts. “Consider living at home and working for a few months as a way to save money. If traveling is one of your goals, there are quite a few ways to do so low-cost, including countless work exchange opportunities where you will receive housing and meals in exchange for your labor.”

    2. Consider using your 529 or grants

    This option is only available for gap programs that offer college credit. There are many gap programs that partner with colleges in the United States, offering college credit for those who enroll (you do not have to be enrolled in the college). If you follow this route, then you can use your 529 college savings plan or Pell grant to pay for your gap experience.

    Keep in mind that while Pell grants do not need to be repaid, they are a needs-based grant and it geared towards expenses like room and board, textbooks, and other educational related expenses. Therefore a Pell grant could go towards paying for housing during your gap program.

    3. Apply to relevant scholarships

    There are scholarships available for gap programs, however they are limited in their amount and you are competing against a much larger audience. They also have more narrow requirements, like requiring that the trip be service orientated or must complete a specific goal before the end of the program (like bringing clean water to a community). 

    For example, Hostelling International offers a scholarship ($2,000) for up to 25 young Americans with “demonstrated financial need” to take an international trip that is focused on education or community service. They also offer up to five scholarships ($3,000) to young Americans who never had a passport to help pay for their first trip abroad.

    The Rotary Foundation offers scholarships for secondary school, undergraduate, or graduate students who want to study locally or abroad. However, the scholarships are awarded by district so the first step for potential applicants is to find their district chapter of the Rotary Club and see their requirements for scholarships. 

    There is also the Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) which allows applicants to submit a single application which allows them to see if they are awarded a wide number of scholarships. However it is open to historically underrepresented study-abroad populations, like students of color, first-generation college students, and community college students.

    The Pollination Project offers grants to individuals who are focused on sustainability, community driven, and a plan of action on how to make their world and community a better place. This grant would fit a specific type of gap year, but may be a better fit for individuals who have a self-structured and driven gap year planned.

    4. Choose an experience that is self-supporting

    The more structured the gap program, the higher the cost is likely to be to cover things like staffing, says Rogers. But there are alternatives, like programs that will pay you as part of the experience. For example, YMCA of the Rockies has gap programs for individuals interested in hospitality. Participants are paid an hourly wage with deductions made for room and board. However, food, internet, and access to their facilities are all included. More options can be found by checking out the Paid Work Experience category at www.teenlife.com/category/gap.

    Sign up for Free Tips and Guides direct to Your Inbox
    Kay Keough

    Kay Keough

    Kay Keough is a freelance writer, editor and designer based in Sandwich, Mass. She covers arts and entertainment and community news in the Cape Cod area, designs information graphics for data-driven stories and copy-edits a variety of publications. She is a technology enthusiast with several years of experience as a tech journalist and in her spare time is an improviser, painter, baker and candlestick maker. She can be reached at k_keough@yahoo.com.

    Tags: Gap Years