A gap year(s) is a planned break after college before starting a full-time job, graduate school, or professional school. Gap years can look differently for everyone, so it is important not to compare your plans to peers’ plans. The important thing to remember is to maximize the time that you have so that you will be set up for success in your next step. You will need to create a plan for your gap year and reflect on how to sell that experience. Gap years can be through a structured program, but there are other options as well:
- Working a part-time job, shadowing, or volunteering
- Preparing for standardized tests like the GRE and MCAT
- Improving graduate/professional school application credentials by gaining more industry experience, taking specific classes, and more
Before planning a gap year, the Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration encourage students to consider the following factors: your interests and values, future goals/plans, level of flexibility, and your current (and future) financial situation. There are some benefits to taking a gap year that students should consider when making their decision:
- Time to recover/relax after college
- Time to focus on things you love
- Time to evaluate interests and develop skills
- Time to gather materials/experience needed for future goals/plans
Structured gap year programs, especially Service corps options, offer limited compensation by providing room and board, travel expenses, living stipends, health insurance, and student loan forgiveness or education awards. Service corps programs (similar to fellowships) are available internationally and in the United States, with positions working in a wide range of areas from education and health care to agriculture and economic development. Individual programs vary widely in the type of assignments available, the geographic area covered, and the format of training and work programs. Service-corps are most frequently a year- to two- year post-bachelor positions and are often referred to as corps members, interns, long-term volunteers or fellows depending on the program.
Gap Year Program Search Tips
The gap year program search will be different for everyone due to variety of gap year options avaliable. Below are a few tips to help you find a gap year program:
- Start early if you can!
- Talk with people in your network like peers, faculty, staff, and alumni
- Research programs in your industry (and their application timelines)
- Reflect on why you are interested in the various programs
- Meet to discuss your plan and options with your Career Coach
- Keep track of application components and deadlines as each program will have a different application and timeline
Popular Gap Year Programs
AmeriCorps focuses on service in education, economic opportunity, disaster response, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families. Volunteers are placed with organizations in the United States serving around 10-12 months with some short-term and summer options. Find what program works best for you: AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), AmeriCorps State & National, AmeriCorps VISTA, and Knoxville- Knox County CAC AmeriCorp.
- Peace Corps
The Peace Corps focuses on international service in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, and youth in development. Volunteers serve anywhere from 3 months to 27 months depending on the program, with most serving around 27 months. Connect with a recruiter to learn more about the program.
- Teach For America
Teach for America builds the movement to eliminate educational resources inequity by enlisting America’s most promising future leaders in the effort to help all students reach their potential. Members lead a pre-K through grade 12 classroom for 2 years in one or more subjects.
- Citizen Schools
Citizen Schools partners with public middle schools in low-income communities to provide an expanded learning day, rich with opportunities. A variety of involvement opportunities exist, including teaching fellowship, volunteer work and jobs.
- City Year
City Year unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them skills and opportunities to change the world.
- National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR)
NCRT provides district serving teacher education programs that combine full year apprenticeships with masters-level educational instruction. NCTR includes partners like Memphis Teacher Residency and Project Inspire in Chattanooga.
- TNTP Teaching Fellows
TNTP aims to combat educational inequality by providing and training excellent teachers to the students who need them most.
- Urban Teachers
Urban Teachers aims to provide high needs schools effective teachers who are committed to making a difference in students’ lives. Program participants receive a masters degree, work alongside other teachers, and eventually lead their own classroom.
- Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET)
JET Program participants are placed in various cities in Japan for approximately 12 months working as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) at schools or interpreters/translators.
- Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF)
TAPIF focuses on strengthen foreign-language instruction in French schools by placing program participants at various elementary and secondary schools for around 7 months.
- Food Corps
FoodCorps recruits talented leaders for a year of paid public service building healthy school food environments in limited-resource communities.
- Knoxville- Knox County CAC Americorp
CAC AmeriCorps is a national service program that combines elements of traditional conservation practice with community action that informs our work and places it in the broader context of the region. CAC AmeriCorps members work to improve public lands, streams and greenways, educate the public, meet immediate human needs through disaster response and build volunteer capacity to enhance the ability of our partners to get things done.
- Southeast Conservation Corps (SECC)
SECC’s Adult Conservation Program places students in a variety of positions focused on conservation work in the southeast for 8 weeks to 6 months. The program is a great entry-level positions for students interested in careers in the National Park Service or Forest Service.
- The Student Conservation Association (SCA)
SCA is America’s conservation corps. Our members protect and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks and community green spaces in all 50 states.
- Global Health Corps (GHC)
GHC pairs intelligent and passionate fellows for 13 months with international health and healthcare organizations that require new thinking and innovative solutions.
- AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps
The Jewish Service Corps gives passionate young people hands-on work experience at local organizations, working on some of our country’s most pressing social issues, like homelessness, public health, HIV/AIDS, education, and immigrant rights. Corps members create and live in an active Jewish community and explore the connections between Judaism and social justice.
- Christian Appalachian Project
Christian Appalachian Project is a Kentucky-based, interdenominational, non-profit Christian organization “committed to serving people in need in Appalachia by providing physical, spiritual and emotional support through a wide variety of programs and services.”
- Episcopal Service Corps
Episcopal Service Corps invites men and women in their 20s to work for justice, live in Christian community, grow in leadership, and deepen their faith life.
- Atlas Service Corps
Atlas Corps develops leaders, strengthens organizations, and promotes innovation through an overseas fellowship of skilled professionals.
- International Volunteer HQ
International Volunteer HQ offers a wide variety of volunteer programs in over 50 destinations. Volunteer Programs are focused on different causes such as childcare, sea turtle & marine conservation, community development, arts and music, elderly care, and more.
- Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad hosts projects and internships in various countries focused on specific causes like women’s empowerment, archaeology, veterinary medicine, plastic education & recycling, and more. The organization offers gap semester programs, volunteer abroad, and intern abroad opportunities.
- Public Allies
Public Allies advances new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits, and civic participation.
- Year Up
Year up provides urban young adults 18-24, with a unique combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an educational stipend and corporate internship.