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Gap Year

What Is a Gap Year/Semester and Who Benefits from a Gap Year/Semester?

While many students choose to enter college in the fall after they graduate high school, there is a variety of exciting options available to students willing to step outside the traditional academic path. If a student desires a different experience before committing to college, taking a deliberate break from formal education and embarking on a gap year or semester journey becomes a great alternative. Taking a GAP year or semester off can offer students an opportunity for personal Growth, interesting Adventures, and a sense of Purpose as they explore the world and themselves.

How Do You Turn a Gap Year/Semester into a Truly Transformative Experience? 


Choosing WHAT to do during a gap year or semester can be challenging and overwhelming. No need to worry – we have you covered! A gap year or semester is many things and we invite you to learn about a myriad of different programs and resources below to choose the option that best suits your interests and passions.

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1. Gap Year/Semester Programs Offered by Professional Providers:

a. Pacific Discovery

Pacific Discovery is an accredited gap year provider offering gap semester programs abroad since 2001. Programs are overland journeys that focus on six core components: educational travel, service learning, cultural and language immersion, sustainable adventure travel, outdoors and wilderness exploration, personal and leadership development.​

Students challenge themselves in a supportive small group environment, developing empathy for other cultures; furthering understanding of international issues; heightening appreciation for the earth’s wild places; deepening global perspectives; and discovering their own passion and purpose.

By giving students responsibilities and freedom within the framework and safety of a well-designed and carefully managed program, they are supported and empowered, helping them become more capable and self-reliant. These programs are pivotal experiences in our participants' lives.

Pacific Discovery has undergone and maintained comprehensive accreditations with the Gap Year Association (USA), Year Out Group (UK), and OutdoorsMark (NZ), and is a member of The Forum on Education Abroad (USA).

  • Considering a Gap Year, but not sure where to start. Check out the Gap Year Planning section of their website here

  • This Gap Year Guide also includes information about the benefits, a step-by-step guide, ideal timeline, tips for going back to college after a gap year, and much more. 

Interested in finding out more about Pacific Discovery?

Click here.

How should you spend a Gap Year? Listen to our conversation on the subject to learn if a gap year is a right choice for you. Video is ~45 minutes in length.

b. Other Accredited Programs

The Gap Year Association provides an accreditation process for gap year programs.  The Gap Year Association has identified the following programs as satisfying its highest standards for accreditation:

3. Academic and Life Management Support

Consider improving your academic and life management skills. Investigate opportunities offered by providers including: Collegiate Coaching ServicesCollegiate Coaching Services can be invaluable for students as part of a gap year/semester journey.

4. Career / Job / Internship Opportunities

Considering career, job, and internship opportunities during a gap year can be instrumental as they offer high school students valuable professional experiences and skill development. Explore various career paths, gain real-world insights, and develop transferable skills such as communication, problem-solving, and adaptability; build a diverse portfolio and network with professionals in their fields of interest; reflect on your aspirations and clarify your goals to make informed decisions about your desired future career path.

5 . Service / Volunteer Opportunities

Focusing on giving back and volunteering during a gap year offers a unique opportunity to profoundly shape you personally and professionally. Immersing yourself in meaningful service projects, volunteer work, or internships in various fields of interest not only allows you to contribute to your communities but also can provide valuable hands-on experience and leadership opportunities, help cultivate a strong work ethic, develop essential interpersonal skills, and explore potential career paths, laying a solid foundation for your future endeavors.

a. Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a worldwide movement to link people with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices. Being one of the world's first educational and cultural programs, WWOOF is in more than 132 countries and growing. WWOOF is not work — there are no obligations of productivity, no subordinate or hierarchy, and no pay. WWOOFing can be considered an active vacation: it is an educational experience, an act of solidarity, and a discovery. You will participate in farm activities for a few hours a day, but will also have time to enjoy and discover the region, share fun experiences, and be close to nature. 

6. Summer Programs at U.S. Colleges

Not sure about taking the whole year off? Consider taking a summer program on campus of a prestigious US college. Explore different summer programs offered by colleges and universities across the country and choose the one that best suits your interests. Gain firsthand experience of college life, explore different academic disciplines, participate in research projects, and interact with faculty and students. Engaging with programs on college campuses in summertime will not only provide you with valuable academic and extracurricular experiences but also will help you make informed decisions about your future educational pathways.

7. International Summer Programs

Participate in enriching international summer programs that can broaden your horizons and deepen your understanding of the world. Immerse yourself in diverse cultural experiences, learn a new language, develop cross-cultural communication skills, gain insights into global issues, and develop connections with people from different backgrounds. Consider doing an international summer program that will allow you cultivate a global mindset and help you become a well-rounded global citizen.

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