Top Gap Year Programs and Services for High School Graduates

We consulted with educational professionals to determine the top gap year programs and services for High School Graduates, and to receive their advice on selecting the best option.

Many people enroll in college in the fall after graduating from high school. Some have alternative goals, such as attending a vocational school or beginning work immediately. Some are unsure if they’re ready for college and would want to have other experiences first. As an alternative to going directly from high school to college, many young adults take a gap year to develop new skills, travel, and volunteer.

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We have here a list of the best gap year programs, as recommended by education professionals. Check out the Gap Year Association for a plethora of information, including how to get started and self-plan a gap year. These possibilities for a gap year will help you begin your quest for the ideal post-graduation adventure.

EF Gap Year

These gap year programs are essentially a “best hits” compilation of the popular, teen-centric Education First (EF) Tours since they include time in internships, at language schools, and participating in service activities all around the world. Students can personalize their semester- or year-long curriculum to help them learn the skills they desire most before entering college.

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Other possibilities include cultural immersion in London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Paris; language teaching in Nice; sustainable development programs in Thailand; internships in Tokyo; and EF’s executive education campus at Ashridge’s leadership academy (a literal castle outside of London). This will enable young adults to “return home with life-altering experiences and new tools to fuel lives of fulfillment and positive influence,” according to Christian Meyer, the president of EF Gap Year.


WorldStrides, a pioneer in educational travel and experiential education, provides gap year programs that may include performing arts, language immersion, career discovery, service-learning, study abroad, and sports. “Each of these experiences helps students see beyond the classroom and gain a new perspective on the world, as well as themselves,” says CEO Robert Gogel.

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In addition, the International Study Abroad (ISA) gap program by WorldStrides offers a variety of alternatives and allows participants to “create their own experience” Participants can prioritize items they deem significant while promoting their own personal development within a community of like-minded travelers.

Go Abroad

This is the option for you if you want a variety of gap year travels abroad programs to choose from. Go Abroad is a search engine and clearinghouse for international travel programs, so you will have access to all the gap year information you require. Go Abroad is also an excellent resource for locating specialist programs, such as places to teach English as a second language.

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Where There Be Dragons

Although the name may sound a bit fantastical, Where There Be Dragons offers some of the most in-depth international travel programs available to gap year students. It provides courses in political science, history, sustainability, economics, and language immersion in far-flung settings such as Madagascar and Nepal, as well as nearby locales such as the Colorado Basin.

Throughout their programs, Dragons provides college credit (check, though, with your college of choice if these will be transferable). This is one of the costliest options, but financial aid is available.

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Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity’s “Youth” programs provide a variety of volunteer opportunities for young individuals who wish to spend time helping others. Their partnership program with AmeriCorps, which offers full-year volunteer positions with local Habitat groups around the United States, is the most immersive choice for gap years. In this program, individuals can learn and develop new talents while assisting Habitat in building houses for those in need. For those who qualify, there is a modest living allowance.


Similarly, this program is an excellent alternative for those seeking volunteer opportunities. There are short-term State and National Programs for individuals over the age of 17 and full-year Vista programs working in nonprofit offices or on NCCC physical projects for individuals over the age of 18 that include free lodging and board and stipends for living expenses.

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Raleigh International

Ed Zamora, college advisor and director at Principia Prep, recommends Raleigh International, a student-led, international volunteer program that focuses on sustainable development in distant regions such as Nepal and Costa Rica. There is both an application procedure and a fee (although not as high as the educational travel companies).

The Leap

This U.K.-based company offers both group “organized” and independent volunteer travel opportunities (a rarity). The Leap provides opportunities to travel while working on sustainability initiatives, such as rebuilding coral reefs in South Africa or conserving beaches and forests in Costa Rica (and other interesting stuff that we’d also love to do). Remember that tuition is required for these alternatives.

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Workaway promotes cultural exchange through employment, from WOOFing (WOofing) on a farm in British Columbia to teaching youngsters art in Peru. These programs are less regimented than traditional gap year travel programs, and your child will labor in exchange for accommodation and board, but if they want to see the globe for free, they can be a terrific choice. Workaway is ideal for independent young adults who do not require a structured curriculum.


This website is comparable to Workaway; it lists hosts needing volunteer assistance, allowing students to travel the world for free in exchange for their labor. Yet, an advanced feature of HELPX is the possibility of forming a support network with potential partners of the same age and interests. This program is ideal for self-sufficient students who are comfortable traveling alone.

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