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.