How to spend a gap year

What to do during your gap year

Taking a gap year is your opportunity to spend time pursuing your passions, accomplishing goals, and setting yourself up for the future. They can take shape however you see fit—need ideas on what you should do during your gap year? Here are some ways you can spend your time.

Things to do during your gap year


A gap year is a great time to go on a trip you’ve always dreamed of going on. You could travel alone, join an adventure or exchange program, or spend time with loved ones in other places.


Many people spend their gap years working to save up for what’s next. You could get a part-time or full-time job, get an internship for career experience, or pursue any other form of work that leaves you (and your wallet) feeling fulfilled. 

Learn a new language

Whether you go to a new country or stay in the comfort of your hometown, learning a new language is always a valuable use of your time. There are plenty of online courses, apps, and lessons that will teach you for free. You’re creating a new skillset that can be lucrative if you choose to pursue certain careers.


If you have any free time, volunteering is always an option. Local soup kitchens, clothing drives, and children’s camps are just a few options that you may be able to find in your area. If you’re feeling even more ambitious, mission trips to other states or countries to help those in need are available, too.

Take classes

A great use of your time during a gap year is to take classes that can help you further your learning and develop new skills. You could take college courses at a school nearby. Your community center may have classes to hone in on your interests and hobbies, like music, art, and more. You don’t have to become a full-time student during your gap year, but a class or two couldn’t hurt.

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Gap year programs

There are programs designed for people who want a structured experience during their gap year. There are a few things you can do to be a part of them. You still need to plan out what your goals are, what program will help you achieve those goals, and how you’ll pay for it. Here are some popular programs:

  • EF Gap Year: This program hosts a variety of internships, service activities, and more all over the world to give students the ability to travel, learn new languages, and immerse themselves in new cultures.
  • Raleigh International: Interested in clean water, conservation, sanitation, and more? This gap year program gives you the skills and experience you need to make a change in your community.
  • WorldStrides: With concentrations in sports, performing arts, and more, WorldStrides allows students to grow and understand the world in new ways.
  • The Intern Group: For those who want to jumpstart their careers and get real-world experience, the Intern Group has opportunities all over the globe to match people with a company and set them up in a new country.
  • VA Corps: This program has internships in fields like medicine, political science, psychology, and more based in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • AmeriCorps: If you’re looking for service programs, AmeriCorps gives you access to work with local nonprofits, help with disaster preparation and recovery, and more.
  • Habitat for Humanity: This is a great opportunity for people to help build homes for those who need them.
  • Where There Be Dragons: To learn more about political science, sustainability, and more in other countries, Where There Be Dragons is an immersive gap year program designed to introduce you to a new way of life.

Use your gap year wisely

If you’re taking a gap year, you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to come to you—they’re out there waiting for you to take them. Spend the time you need to figure out what experience is right for you.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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footnote Sallie Mae, the Sallie Mae logo, and other Sallie Mae names and logos are service marks or registered service marks of Sallie Mae Bank. All other names and logos used are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners. 

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