Students who choose the Gap Year Pathway must submit an acceptance letter as evidence of their plan to meet the Learn.Plan.Succeed. graduation requirement.
During a gap year, students take time away from formal education to engage in planned activities that can help them decide what they want to do with their future. While students must define a plan for their gap year to meet the Learn.Plan.Succeed. requirement, they can allow flexibility in their plan to pursue new areas of interest that may arise.
Types of Gap Year Activities
Gap year activities vary widely, depending on the student's interests, what he or she wants to accomplish, and other factors. Primary types of gap year activities include:
- Volunteer/Service: Experiences that help students understand interdependence and allow them to give back
- Career Exploration/Internship: Real-world work experiences that help students decide on a future course of study or career
- Social Change: Experiences that enable students to participate in efforts to improve communities
The gap year purpose Venn diagram is described as having four main sections, with overlapping fields that all intersect to give purpose. The four main sections and their overlaps are as follows: find that which you love and that which the world needs, which will give you a mission. Between what the world needs and that which you can be paid for will give you vocation. Between getting paid and that which you are good at will give you a profession. Finally, between being good at something and finding something you love will give you passion.
Don’t think of a gap year as a “break.” Consider how taking a gap year will support your efforts to prepare for and to inform the next steps in your life journey. Among the many benefits of taking a gap year are becoming a more well-rounded individual and finding purpose. Experts argue that your purpose, calling, dream job, point of happiness, pathway, or reason for being can be found where these four elements meet: (1) what you’re good at, (2) what you love, (3) what the world needs, and (4) that for which someone will pay you.
To learn more, research Ikigai, a Japanese concept about the meaning of life. Your ikigai - your purpose - lies at the center of the interconnection of passion, mission, vocation, and profession.
How to Pursue This Pathway
What students do during a gap year may depend on budget restrictions and how much structure and support the student desires. Here are some options:
- Engage in self-directed activities
- Enroll in a formal gap year program
Students who opt for a gap year should also think about where college fits in their plan. Some colleges offer built-in gap year programs, so students can apply for admission to a gap year program at the same time they are applying for college admission.
If a gap year is a postsecondary option that interests you, consider taking the next steps:
- Gather information
Talk to your school counselor and family members early in your gap year planning process to get help identifying core priorities, resources, and learning outcomes.
- Define your goals
Consider what you want to achieve, learn, and experience during your gap year.
- Define your activities
Decide where you will go and what you will do. If you want to travel, determine where you will live.
- Manage college applications
Decide when you will submit college applications and confirm enrollment deferral policies wherever you apply.
- Start early
The earlier you start, the more time you have to research program options and submit applications for scholarships and grants.
- Gap Year Checklist
Search for gap year programs abroad.
The Gap Year Association's comprehensive planning checklist.
Accredited, unaccredited, and in-progress member listing of the Gap Year Association.
More than 100 gap year program providers attend fairs across the country. Check the schedule to learn when the fair will visit Illinois.
The Gap Year Association provides information and resources to obtain financial aid during a gap year.
This resource provides students who are planning an independent gap year with thousands of community service opportunities in the United States.
City Year helps to close gaps in high-need schools by supporting students' academic and social-emotional development. Explore opportunities to serve specifically in cities through AmeriCorps.
This partnership with AmeriCorps offers leadership development opportunities for young people interested in advancing social justice and equity through collaborative action.
A database of service years available through a variety of nonprofits and public organizations. From urban to rural communities, service year opportunities are available in a wide array of issue areas, including: education, the environment, disaster relief, health care, and many more.
Search Illinois AmeriCorps State Programs.
This gap-year program provides students with leadership development and immersion experiences in India, Brazil, Ecuador and Senegal. Program Fellows live with local families and work on social impact and global change initiatives in education, public health, and the environment.
This partnership between AmeriCorps NCCC and FEMA offers service opportunities to help communities prepare for and recover from disaster.
Peace Corp offers two-year service opportunities in countries around the world. Program participants work side by side with local leaders to promote world peace and solve the most urgent challenges that their host countries face.
WWOOF provides service opportunities in organic farming and gardening around the world. WWOOFers or program volunteers work on a host farm, learn about the organic movement and sustainable agriculture practices, and gain practical organic farming and gardening skills.
Search the network of Employers of National Service, which connects AmeriCorps and Peace Corps alumni with employers from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.
Conduct comprehensive college and career planning using this online platform, for students in grades 6-12.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Use this form to apply for federal financial aid for college, career schools, or grad school.
Create a username and password to gain access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems. This can serve as your legal signature.
The office of Federal Student Aid provides publications, fact sheets, online tools, and other resources to help you prepare and pay for college or career school. Resources are grouped by topics.
A reference source produced by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to provide general admission and financial aid information about Illinois postsecondary institutions. Please check with each institution for exact costs.
Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC)
The state’s college access and financial aid agency.
Retention of Illinois Students & Equity (RISE) Act
This Act permits state aid to be awarded to persons who are not otherwise eligible for federal financial aid, including, but not limited to transgender students and noncitizen students who have not obtained lawful US permanent residence.
Find out test dates and information on what kinds of questions you’ll see and what the test measures.
Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid
This application allows qualifying undocumented students and transgender students who are not otherwise eligible for federal financial aid to apply for Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants to attend eligible Illinois colleges, universities, and career education programs.