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Why Take a Gap Year and How to Fund One
Gap Years are on the rise in the United States. Young adults are in need of some time away from the rigors of academic life to explore their own interests and gain experience from real-life situations. Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that gap years can have the following benefits:
Academic and Careers Benefits
- Gap Year alumni have a chance to experience new ideas which will help them to choose a topic of study or job or career.
- Universities recognize that students who have completed a gap year tend to be more invested in their studies, better community members and have better employability. Gap Year alumni will often use their experience to write better admissions essays and increase their chances of being accepted into college and are more likely to be supported with scholarships in college. Experiences while on a gap year program can be directly applied to later studies and is one reason why gap year alumni have less burn-out and higher graduation rates than others.
- Time spent on a gap year program can re-ignite a sense of curiosity for learning and inspire young adults to pursue their interests with more dedication and focus.
- A gap year will challenge young people to be both more independent and to work with others to accomplish tasks, both of which are valuable skills for life-long learning and leadership.
- Develop new perspectives through cross-cultural immersion and working with diverse groups.
- Learn how to communicate with people from different backgrounds.
- Creative problem solving while being in a new environment.
- Understand how different environments inform cultural foundations and shape relationship among the earth and local communities.
- Expand perspective on “living”, how it is done and what is viewed as successful by others.
- Evaluate personal values and identify one’s own ‘best way of living’ and definitions of ‘success’.
- Explore one’s comfort zones in the face of newly gained independence and opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds.
- Learn how to laugh and take one’s self lightly in the face of challenges.
- Understand and experience different ways of learning through ‘head, hands and heart’ which can shape the foundation for life-long continuing education.
- Increased ownership of one’s own self-direction.
- Understand what it means to be a global citizen.
- Develop an understanding of balance between body, mind and spirit.
- Gain leadership experience by working with others to overcome group challenges and consider new ways of learning and living.
- Gain new ways of understanding conflict resolution, emotional control and cooperative decision making that benefits the collective whole.
- Seeing new sights, tasting new tastes, hearing new sounds and learning about different cultures and places!
How to Fund a Gap Year Program
Gap Year Programs can seem rather costly. This is because they are usually all-inclusive covering the cost of all housing and meals, as well as all program related activities including the staff and resources which are necessary to keep participants active, learning and safe.
To help offset program costs we suggest a combination of finding a job and working a bit so you can save some money (either before or after the program), fundraising, and applying for scholarships.
Step 1: Get a Job
If you haven’t already started working at a job, we highly suggest you consider it. We know there may be some obstacles, like how much free time you have or transportation, but as soon as you can find solutions we suggest you start applying. If you haven’t had a job before, don’t be too picky about what you do. Any job can be a worthwhile learning experience and you never know who you’ll meet and what new opportunities might arise once you get started. Don’t limit yourself because you think you might not be eligible for a job – just go for it and apply – you never know!
Ask your family, friends, teachers and counselors for help writing a resume, filling out applications or writing any cover letters and also if they have any leads or know someone or an organization that might be hiring. Then apply to several different opportunities to make sure you get at least one! Having a job is the first step to building a resume that will secure you better and more jobs in the future. And earning money is very satisfying, especially if you can use it do something you really want to do, like the Eco-Gap Program!
Step 2: Fundraising Ideas
- Reach out to your own community simply by asking. You could write a letter or an email or create a short video of what it is that you’d like to do and why. You can ask family members, your religious community, local organizations or businesses, especially any that are involved with energy efficiency, social activism, organic farming, cooperative businesses, youth empowerment, etc. Think about the themes of the Eco-Gap Program and why you are interested in them and then seek out like-minded individuals or organizations. And just ask people who are close to you and/or your family. You might be surprised by how willing people are to donate some money to you and even a little can add up. Don’t forget to keep a list of who gives you money and how much so you can thank them afterward and prepare a short presentation of what you accomplished.
- Write a story or make a video about what you want to do and why and then reach out to a local radio station or newspaper to ask them if they’ll help you spread the word.
- Use Facebook, Instagram or YouTube or other social media.
- Try crowdfunding by using a site like GoFundMe – search online for more options
Step 3: Scholarship Options
There aren’t a lot of scholarships available for Gap Year students, but here are some we know of:
Eco-Gap Scholarships – We are constantly looking for funding to help offset our programs. If you are seeking financial aid, please fill out our Scholarship Form so we know of your needs. We will work individually with each applicant to assess your situation.
EnRoute Gap Year Consulting – we will be granting one or more counseling scholarships to students who plan to dedicate their entire gap year to activism. They want to connect enthusiastic young people with organizations, campaigns, and leaders who will help develop students into the leaders of tomorrow. Grantees will be entitled to a full Standard Gap Year Consulting Package, a USD $2,000 value. To be eligible, you must be a: high school graduate or matriculated into college as of June; you must plan to take a full academic year of gap time; and, you must plan to dedicate your entire gap year to activism (you can, however, work on more than one project). See the scholarship application.
Travel Access Grant – award yearly grants to students who are pursuing a gap year experience. In 2018 the grant amount was $3000 and applications were due March 1st. https://www.travelaccessproject.org/fund-a-scholarship
Step 4: Inspiration:
- Here is an example of two young men who got very creative in looking for funding for their gap year using YouTube.
- How to crowdfund for an adventure: https://matadornetwork.com/trips/how-to-crowdfund-your-next-travel-adventure/
We are seeking a diverse group of young adults interested in creating a better future for our planet! We look forward to hearing from you!
APPLY HERE for the Fall 2019 Immersion Program
(applications now being accepted)
APPLY HERE for Spring or Summer 2019 Internships
(applications now being accepted)
Note: Eco-Gap is a program of LEARN@EcoVillage Ithaca.