How to Choose a Gap Year Program

Written by Rebecca Barr, Manager of Institutional Relations at EF Gap Year

  • Publish Date: May 18th, 2021

Deciding to take a gap year—and choosing a program—are huge steps towards creating the life that you want.

But sometimes deciding what to do on your gap year can be challenging! If you are considering different programs and paths for your gap year, here are a few important questions to ask yourself that help you find the right program for yourself:

1. What is my ideal balance of independence and support?

Most students in high school and college are used to a certain amount of routine and structure throughout their educational experience. A gap is a great time to flex your skills of independence – visiting new places, meeting new people, gaining new skills, and getting outside your comfort zone. At the same time, it’s also great to know that someone has your back and is there to support you during your physical and personal journeys throughout your gap year. Each student needs a different balance between this independence and support during their gap experience.

When exploring different gap options, ask questions about what the experience is like from beginning to end. Do you have an orientation? Will you be traveling with a cohort? Is there on-the-ground staff throughout all parts of your program? What is the balance of planned program activities and free time? Learning the answers to these questions will help you make sure that your program is providing the right balance of independence and support.

Ultimately most students want a program that gives you time to flex your independence and go on your own journey, but with a cohort of supportive peers and great staff to help you navigate logistics and facilitate your program experiences. At EF Gap Year, this balance is at the heart of our programs – we provide you with 24/7 support, logistical arrangements (flights, accommodations, program activities), and a program advisor to help you track your goals. But you also have plenty of independent time and space to make your gap experience exactly what you want it to be!

2. How do I make sure my gap program is legitimate?

There are a lot of gap year programs to choose from out there, and it is important that you find a program that has your best interest at heart. Any legitimate gap program wants to make sure that their program is really the right fit for you! They will be up-front and have documentation on their website about costs and what they do or do not include, cancellation policies, and program experience. It’s also important to see how long they have been around – do they have a proven track record of delivering quality programs? You can even check out verified alumni reviews of programs on sites like GoOverseas.

And even though the internet is an invaluable resource, in many cases a good old phone call is the best way to assuage your fears and get all your questions answered. Make sure to schedule a phone call with someone from your program’s admissions or enrollment team so you can connect with a real person and talk through whether the program is a good fit for you!

At EF Gap Year, we have a track record of 55+ years of providing quality educational travel experiences. Our EF Gap Consultants are always excited to hop on the phone with students and parents to chat through our programs and see if they are a good fit for you!

3. How do I make sure my gap program will keep me safe?

Health and safety are aspects of the program to examine closely, especially during COVID times. The program’s track record comes into play again here – how long has the program been running, and how have they responded to past incidents? When thinking about future travel, spend some time learning about what on-the-ground safety measures are in place, what insurance the program provides or requires, and how they are working to ensure that you and the communities to which you travel are protected.

It’s also important to know how the gap program will adapt should global regulations change your travel plans. Especially now when global travel restrictions and requirements are changing frequently, your best chance to travel will be with a program that can offer you flexibility in the face of changing global circumstances.

At EF Gap Year, we have led the industry in terms of being proactive about our students’ health and safety. As we have begun running programs again in 2021, we have made sure to work with our global partners to ensure we provide meaningful experiences for students while providing safe and flexible precautions.

4. What do I want to accomplish during my gap?

While of course gap years are a lot of fun, it’s important to think about your future and how your gap will contribute to putting you on the right path for yourself. Do you want to develop specific skills? Look at your program’s educational philosophy and outcomes. Is getting ahead in college important to you? Make sure to find a program with college credit options. Are you trying to figure out what you want to do with your life? Choose a gap year program that will let you explore a few different types of experience.

One helpful thing to do before you choose a gap year program is to think about your future self at the end of your gap experience. What is one thing that you want to make absolutely certain that you have accomplished by the time you reach the end of your gap experience? Focusing on your end goal can help you make sure your program will provide you with the best long-lasting impact.

At EF Gap Year, our goal centers on educational outcomes that empower you to figure out who you are, what you want to do with your next steps, and how you can make change in our world. And you can even earn college credits doing it!

Whether you know exactly what you want to accomplish, or you’re thinking, “I have no idea what I want to accomplish during my gap year!” you’re in the right place! You’ll be amazed at the paths that open for you during a gap year that you can’t even imagine right now. So don’t be scared to embark on your gap year journey and set yourself up for a fun, productive, and rewarding experience.

If you think EF Gap Year could be a great fit for you, connect with one of our team members to learn more! We are here to help you make your gap dreams a reality.

Rebecca Barr

Manager of Institutional Relations at EF Gap Year

Rebecca works with institutional partners to make more gap experiences possible. Having lived, studied, and worked in countries from Germany to Qatar, she loves to use her global skills as a part of the EF Gap Year team to help other young people find their passions through a gap.


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