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Gap Year Volunteer Work Offers a Break from Academics Before College

Gap year programs have been around for decades, and their popularity continues to rise.

In a nutshell, a gap-year is a year off between high school and freshman year of college, during which a student undertakes some sort of structured, typically non-academic program. There are many gap-year programs available, some of which also offer college credit, and many colleges will give a year’s deferment to accepted students who enroll in a gap-year program.

The downside is that gap-year programs can be expensive, though there are ways around gap year cost. Take, for example, AmeriCorps: a domestic Peace Corps that sends students all over the country to perform volunteer work. Youths are paid a stipend and, in some cases, can also earn college credit.

“But, you can just make things up too,” notes P. Carol Jones, author of Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able?. “For example, if you have contacts with organizations of people abroad, use those for your teenager to go and get work.”

Gap Year Volunteer Work: Cut Gap Year Costs

In fact, that’s just what Jones did. Her husband had a connection at a conservation organization in Peru, which was willing to take her son as a volunteer. The opportunity was so appealing, Jones’ other son, then a junior in college, went along too.

“They worked with this conservation organization in a small town on the east side of the Andes. And they were totally on their own. They had to find a place to live, and they had to do everything in Spanish. We had to fund them, but it’s pretty cheap to live like that. A lot cheaper than a full-out gap program,” she notes.

If an international option is more than your teenager can handle, look around your local community. Local organizations can offer another inexpensive way to do a gap year.