Career Exploration, Gap Year, and Summer Programs Finder

Find Career Exploration, Gap Year, Internship, and Summer Programs for Students and Recent Graduates.

Gap Year Programs. A gap year is a period of time when students take a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, intern, work, perform research or any combination of these activities. A gap year can also be used to defer college or have an experience abroad. Most often, a gap year refers to a year that students take off between high school and starting college, however, people can also take a year or two after college graduation, prior to entering graduate or professional school. The purpose can vary—to try something different before focusing on your chosen career, maybe you’re not quite sure what you want to go to graduate school for and want to take some time in the field to get experience, or just for an academic break.

Gap Year

What is a gap year?  Most frequently, gap year refers to a year that students take off between high school and starting their college experience, to gain experience, mature, save money, or just take a break.  However, people can also take a year or two after college graduation, prior to entering graduate or professional school (including medical school), or between Master’s and doctoral studies. The purpose can vary—maybe you want to try something different before focusing on your chosen career, maybe you’re not quite sure what you want to go to graduate school for and want to take some time in the field to get experience, maybe, again, you just need an academic break.  It’s important that you have a defined goal for this time, even if it’s “I want to travel”, so you can make intentional use of the time and tell future admissions offices and employers what you gained.

There are several motivations and options for a gap year.  Sometimes students need to improve your grades or complete a pre-requisite for medical or professional school applications and choose to explore post-bac programs to gain this experience.  If money is a consideration (and let’s be honest, that’s most of us), working can give you great professional experience and help you save money.  Also, if a company thinks you do good work and sees the benefit of you furthering your academic experience, they may pay for your graduate school, especially in STEM fields, so that year of industry experience can really pay off. College bridge programs might be another alternative, if you’re coming out of high school and want to get more academic preparation and structure in your first year(s) at college.

While the best use of a gap year, whether just leaving high school or after college, is probably gaining work or academic experience, sometimes, the growth, world view and perspective gained from traveling or pursuing a passion can be just as fulfilling and useful.  Consider opportunities to travel, volunteer within your community or anywhere in the world, or pursue a personal interest like writing, photography, a craft, or coding.

How do you know if a gap year (or years) is right for you? First of all, make sure you think through the process given your individual situation. Consider impacts on college acceptances, visas, insurance, course planning, and financial aid or scholarships.  Have a plan for funding your time and budget well. Choose an opportunity that you really think is valuable to you and your future.

Did you know that many organizations offer career discovery opportunities for high school students and recent graduates?  These include health care, technology, manufacturing plants, government agencies, and more.

Apprenticeship Programs. An apprenticeship is a “learn-while-you-earn” model that combines on-the-job training, provided by the employer that hires the apprentice, with job-related instruction in curricula tied to the attainment of national skills standards. While it is used in traditional industries such as construction and manufacturing, an apprenticeship is also instrumental for training and development in growing industries, such as health care, information technology, transportation, agriculture, and energy.

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