Gap Year Programs

Photo of Peace Corps volunteer with Paraguyan villagers


A "gap" year program may be a great way to learn more about yourself while you explore the world and make a difference to the world around you. Often new graduates are better able to take advantange of this option, as they have fewer commitments and obligations than they will acquire over subsequent years. Is this for you? Ask yourself if you're:

  • Seeking adventure
  • Looking for ways to live out your ideals
  • Looking for a challenge
  • Seeking ways to improve your language skills
  • Needing a break before going on to graduate school
  • Wanting to expand your experience and skills
  • Seeking practical knowledge
  • Considering a career in the not-for-profit sector

If the answer is a resounding yes to some of the questions above, then participating in a bridge year program could be a great choice for you. Below we outline some the the steps you'll need to consider as you get started.

Narrowing down the options

There are a mind-boggling array of bridge-year possibilities.

  • Location: Where would I like to have a bridge year experience?  Would I prefer to work in the United States, or to go abroad?
  • Program type: What kind of experience am I looking for? What do I hope to accomplish by it? How will this experience prepare me for a career goal I may have in mind?  Would I prefer education, social service, community development, health, arts and culture, environment, advocacy, public policy, research or some other area?
  • Program length:  How much time do I want to give to a post-college alternative? Would a single summer be best? A whole year? Two or more years?
  • Paid or unpaid:  Will I be allowed to defer payment on student loans if I participate in this program?  Will I incur further debt? Is this option a realistic and good fit for me and my personal circumstances?

A few questions to ask the programs you are considering

  • Will I earn enough money to live on?
  • How is housing and food handled?
  • What about health insurance?
  • How will a bridge year experience help or hinder my career employment or grad school prospects?
  • What financial benefit, if any, is there in committing to a bridge year program?
  • What about my student loans?
  • Can/should I apply to grad school and/or search for a job at the same time I explore options?
  • What about my student loans?
  • How should I describe and explain this to my parents?

Starting your research

You can find the programs most popular with past Hanover grads, plus a few more, at Gap Year Options.