A gap year is typically a non-academic experience year taken between high school and post-secondary training. Experience can take a variety of forms. It can be an internship, a volunteer opportunity, employment, or a special program - virtually any opportunity that helps the student learn and grow. Many gap year participants learn about themselves and mature through their experiences.
Although not required for the experience, Fairfax County Public Schools uses a very specific gap year definition for data purposes. Students who have (1) applied to, (2) been accepted by, (3) deposited with, and (4) successfully deferred matriculation to their chosen post secondary school are considered to be taking a year off. This process helps the student ensure a place in his/her chosen school at the end of the gap year.
There are a number of gap year opportunities available. Consider:
- The National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a team-based national service program under AmeriCorps for volunteers to develop their own leadership skills. NCCC members are 18 to 24 years old who spend 10 months serving on teams which help communities prepare for and respond to disasters, build homes, and help the environment. At the conclusion of service, participants receive over $5,000 for their post-secondary education. For more information visit www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-nccc.
- Residential Programs - Part of the AmeriCorps network of service programs operated by the Corporation for National and Community Service that provides opportunities for full and part time service in exchange for education awards. It is a 10-month, team-based, full-time residential program. Members live in dormitory-style housing at one of 5 campuses located in South Carolina, Maryland, Colorado, California and Washington, D.C. Upon completion of the full-time program, members receive an education award of $5,815 that can be used for college, training or student loans. During their term of service members receive room & board, uniforms, training, health benefits and modest living allowance. For additional information visit their website: www.americorps.gov or call 1-800-942-2677.
- City Year is looking for 17-24 year-olds to give 11 months to full-time national service in 18 cities across the country. Benefits include a weekly stipend, a $5,815 educational scholarship award, healthcare, Metro passes, a free cell phone provided by T-Mobile, and professional and leadership development. If you are thinking of taking a gap year visit www.cityyear.org/dc.aspx to discover City Year Washington, DC and go to www.cityyear.org/dynamic.aspx?id=140 for a list of other cities and office contact numbers.
The Student Conservation Association (SCA)
The Student Conservation Association offers expense-paid conservation internships to people both under and over 18 who “have the concern, the capability and the commitment necessary to preserve our natural and cultural resources.” Thousands of positions are available nationwide with opportunities in over 50 career disciplines. Interns serve 12 weeks to 12 months while living and working in National Parks, Forests and Historic Sites. Interns gain real career experience and earn an education award and/or academic credit. For more information, visit www.thesca.org/serve/youth-programs.
There are many local organizations in the Metro DC area with which you can gain experience.
Private Corporate Gap Year Programs
There are many private corporate gap year programs with opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. Whether one is right for you will be a family decision. Cost is one of many factors.