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Our 2019 Guide to Gap Year Programs

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Gap Year Program Guide

After spending 12 years working toward high school graduation, perhaps the thought of heading back into the classroom for another four years has you feeling a bit restless. Maybe you’d like a break from books, teachers, and homework assignments, a chance to explore the world outside the classroom.

A gap year -- a year between high school and college dedicated to work, travel, or service -- might be what you’re looking for. And to help you explore the possibilities a gap year can offer, we are proud to announce TeenLife’s 2019 Guide to Gap Year Programs, newly updated with even more program offerings.

Guide to Gap Year Programs

Download the guide to learn about the basics of planning a gap year, get ideas on funding a gap year, and read insights from a parent who has been there. Better yet, kickstart your gap year dreams by browsing options from leading gap year programs. Our newest guide listings include programs that let students learn whitewater rafting in the Rockies, intern in Israel, or do wildlife conservation in Cost Rica.

Why take a gap year?

If images of stunning peaks or Central American rain forests were not enough to convince you, consider some of the benefits a gap year can offer.

  • Learn more about yourself: Facing the physical rigors of a backcountry hike or the emotional challenges of volunteering with the underprivileged can teach students a lot about what they value, what they’re passionate about, and what they can achieve.
  • Develop confidence: Once you’ve navigated a foreign city, discussed current events with notable leaders, or learned a new language in just a few months, it’s a little easier to believe you can conquer whatever challenges come your way.
  • Gain valuable skills: Stronger language skills, better communications, improved professionalism and networking, and more cultural awareness are all abilities that will help you succeed in college and beyond.
  • Strengthen your resume: As you apply for internships and then post-college jobs, a gap year shows potential employers that you have a level of maturity, confidence, and competence that can’t help but be appealing.

Gap year pros and cons

Are there reasons not to take a gap year? That answer is up to you, but there are some questions students and their families should consider carefully before committing to the idea.

Cost: Gap year programs can run the gamut from very affordable to downright luxurious. Price needn’t be an automatic dealbreaker, however. Many programs offer generous scholarships. Students can also consider doing an organized program for a semester or a few months and using the remaining time to work and earn money. And if a program offers college credit, you might be able to use funds from a 529 college savings plan.

Momentum: A common worry among families considering a gap year is that the student might get off the academic track and have trouble getting back into the groove for college. Students and their families know their own personalities the best, but the numbers suggest that the overwhelming majority of teens who take a gap year go on to successful college careers, and may even end up with better grades on average.

Gap year ideas

Getting excited about the idea of a gap year. Download our guide and explore TeenLife’s gap program listings, which are regularly updated with new offerings. And browse our testimonials for a sense of what gap years have done for real students.

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Marie Schwartz is the CEO and Founder of TeenLife Media. Marie launched TeenLife in 2007 after moving to Boston with her husband and two middle school sons and discovering that there were no information resources for families with older children. Today, TeenLife's award-winning website lists thousands of summer and gap year programs, schools, college admission resources and volunteer opportunities for teens around the world.