Where To Start

Rollie, during part of his gap year in India

Planning Your Gap Year

Do your research! A gap year is meant to help you grow and develop into a more mature, experienced, and worldly individual, regardless of where you go, what you do, and how much money you spend. There are myriad opportunities out there, so it will be important to think critically about what your personal needs are as well as what you want to get out of this year.

What do you want to do? How will you benefit from your gap year? How much will it cost and how do I budget for the experience?

The answers to these questions will help guide you in planning your gap year, while the resources below can provide information and logistical assistance during the planning stages. Your gap year can be one long experience, or broken up into smaller components.  Below are some resources to not only help you plan you year, but discover just how many opportunities are out there:

Gap Year Association – Resources on programs, planning, and advice for gap years

ServiceYear – A database of service opportunities located around the US

GoOverseas – A database of over 16,000 programs with helpful community reviews

GapYearly – Testimonials and advice from students around the world who have completed gap years

The U.S. State Department – Information on travel destinations, and passports and visa requirements


Domestic Service Opportunities

We encourage students to include service work and civic engagement as a meaningful component of their gap year. There are many opportunities close to home you might consider, such as volunteering with:

  • youth organizations, like the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA
  • immigrant and refugee services, teaching English as a Second Language
  • environmental and conservation organizations, like the Sierra Club or local parks
  • community arts programs
  • women’s shelters
  • adult education programs, senior centers and the local library
  • animal shelters

For full year opportunities, consider programs like AmeriCorps, CityYear, and the Student Conservation Association, which have programs across the United States.

There are also opportunities for online experiences. For instance, Global Citizen Year, a nonprofit pioneering a model that wraps education and instruction around real-world experience, has developed a first-of-it’s kind opportunity specifically for 2020-21.

Global Citizen Academy is intensive leadership experience equipping diverse high school graduates with powerful and practical skills for a lifetime of social impact. Designed in partnership with Minerva Project, this program is offered to students around the world and made accessible through a sliding scale tuition model. Global Citizen Academy presents a unique opportunity for young leaders to ground themselves in academic learning, community engagement, and mentorship during these unprecedented times.  

Interested students can apply to Global Citizen Academy here, and will be notified of their admissions decision within two weeks. The application deadlines are June 30th and July 30th, 2020. 

Established Gap Year Program(s) 

These gap year experiences are coordinated and implemented by a third party organization. These programs may charge a fee and will often include many different components in that fee, from housing and travel, to insurance and visa costs. For students who are unsure of what their gap year could include, looking at established programs is a good place to start, as they often include mentoring and advising, helping students get this most out of their experiences.

We are pleased that some programs have offered further financial assistance to Duke students (see below). We also recommend looking at the Gap Year Association’s list of accredited programs. There are many programs out there, of varying lengths, locations and interests, so it is important to do your research to determine which program is the best fit for you.

The following established gap year programs have generously offered further assistance for Duke Gap Year Program students:

Amigos de las Américas: Accredited by the Gap Year Association, AMIGOS is a nonprofit that provides authentic cultural immersion and leadership experiences. During a Gap Semester or Year, you will live with a host family, complete an internship, implement a sustainable service project, and go on excursions to must-see local spots! Internship themes include Environmental Sustainability & Biodiversity, Graphic Design, Engineering & Technology, Entrepreneurship, and more. For the 2019-2020 academic year, choose between a 4-month semester or 9-month gap year in Cuenca, Ecuador or Montevideo, Uruguay. More details are available on our website. Applicants from Duke will be considered for additional financial assistance.

Global Citizen Year: (Postponed until 2021) An 8-month global immersion and leadership development program, Global Citizen Year Fellows live with a host family and apprentice with a community organization – working on health, education, or the environment – in Brazil, Ecuador, India or Senegal.  If you are selected, Global Citizen Year will match the gap year funding awarded by Duke and will consider you for additional financial aid based on demonstrated need. Interested students should apply to Global Citizen Year here by May 15th, and indicate on the application that you have been admitted to Duke University. (Given this deadline, students should consider applying to Global Citizen Year in parallel to applying for the Duke Gap Year Program.)

Thinking Beyond Borders: Are you ready to shape your future and build your global community?  Our 7-month Global gap program empowers students to address critical global issues through deep cultural immersion opportunities which include host family living, language instruction and authentic engagement with members of the community.  Our students partner and learn alongside local school teachers, farmers and public health workers while participating in a group seminar space to process their experiences. The program culminates in Washington DC, visiting with leaders of global movements for change and your political rep on Capitol Hill. If accepted by May 15th, Duke students are eligible to receive a $5,000 discount off of their program tuition for our Global Gap Year program. Interested students should apply here, and indicate on the application that you have been admitted to Duke University.

United Planet: United Planet offers Duke University students scholarships up to $500 for Gap Year programs ranging from 6 months to one year. United Planet’s Gap Year program, celebrating its 70th anniversary, is one of the longest standing gap year programs in the world, established in 1949, and offered in over 30 countries worldwide. United Planet also offers all Duke University students scholarships up to $250 on its Short and Mid-term (1-16 week) programs for students wishing to combine two or more Short or Mid-term programs into a longer term gap year experience.

Where There Be Dragons: Dragons offers educational travel programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Our students develop an understanding of critical global issues through immersive travel, meaningful engagement, and empowered student leadership. Each program is custom-crafted with a dynamic itinerary and a 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio. We believe that future leaders will be required to think beyond borders in order to cultivate a more inclusive, collaborative, and just future. We strive to help students develop the self-awareness and cross-cultural competencies to be more active participants in the world. For Duke Gap Year students, Dragons will provide a tuition reduction of $2000 for students receiving a Duke Gap Year stipend. Duke Gap Year students are also eligible to apply for additional financial aid. For more on How We Travel or program information, please visit our websitedigital catalog. or contact our Admissions Director, Eva Vanek: eva@wheretherebedragons.com.

Year OnDo you want to learn more about yourself and what you want to do in college? With both a semester and an 8 month program, Year On fellows work with a coach while they volunteer abroad in Tanzania, Mexico, India, Indonesia, or Peru and build their portfolio in San Francisco. A stepping stone to college, Year On fellows live in a student dormitory and take experiential workshops as they work with their coach to prepare for life in college. We’re looking for students who want to invest in themselves. Interested students should apply here by May 5th, and indicate on the application that you have been admitted to Duke University. (Given the deadline, students should consider applying to Year On in parallel to applying to the Duke Gap Year Program.)  Year On will match gap year funding awarded by Duke, not to exceed the cost of the program.