The idea of a gap year can be very appealing to high school students. This is because it promises a breather from the constraints of academia and allows you to grow on your own, without any pressures. It comes as no surprise, then, that an increasing number of students are opting to take a year off after high school and explore the world.
After all, a gap year allows students to take a break from conventional education, and as per research, they return to college with renewed enthusiasm.
However, we understand that taking a gap year is still a privilege for students because not all of them have the financial standing to do so. A gap year brings with it uncertainties and delays employment by a year. Besides, students mostly take this time off to travel, explore different cultures, and take up volunteer work – all of which require money.
So, if you are contemplating taking a gap year but do not have the budget for it, do not fret. Out here, we’ve compiled a guide to what you can do during your gap year without money. But before that, let’s learn more about what a gap year entails.
What is a Gap Year?
A gap year is defined as a formal break that a student takes from academics for experiential learning. This can be taken either immediately after high school or after college before they pursue post-graduation. Usually, students take a gap year to explore different career options, decide on what they want to pursue in the future or travel.
There are many pros and cons of taking a gap year and therefore, it is essential that high school students make a choice after doing proper research and gaining insightful knowledge. They should not jump into a gap year with no planning but carefully introspect and plan so that they do not waste their year.
A lot of students are hesitant to take a gap year, even when they are confused about their major in college because they do not have the funds for it. If you are among them, we are here with some good news. Taking a gap year does not always mean that you’ll have to strain your finances. Here are some creative and practical ways you can make the most of your gap year without draining your parents’ hard-earned money.
1. Look for Affordable Programs
Specialization courses or programs that you take up during your gap year do not have to break the bank. There are several affordable gap year programs that you can be a part of. For instance, you can look into art history programs, international volunteering programs, and so on. Besides, the gap year association also offers several programs for you to look into and decide what fits your budget.
These programs help foster a sense of independence in students and allow them to become more self-reliant and thereby make better decisions in the future.
2. Volunteer Abroad
Volunteering abroad hits two nails with one stone: it helps you learn more about different cultures and it helps you give back to the people in need.
There are gap year programs from leading organizations like HelpX and Workaway that will offer fantastic volunteering opportunities while also taking care of accommodation and food for you. So, make sure to look into them.
Volunteering is a cost-effective and incredibly rewarding way to spend your gap year. However, not all volunteering programs are entirely free. You may have to spend money on food and accommodation for some programs, but they are nonetheless very cost-efficient.
If you do not want to travel abroad, look for local volunteer programs and ask your seniors about them. You are bound to find something enriching and exciting.
3. Teach English
There is a huge demand for English teachers abroad, particularly in Asian countries. So, if you are a native English speaker, this might be the right job for you. Although you may require a TEFL certification for some positions, there are volunteer opportunities that allow you to teach without formal qualifications.
4. Take Up Part-Time Work
Taking up a part-time job is an excellent way to make the most of your gap year while also making money on the side. The money you make can sponsor summer programs, which you can indulge in after work hours.
Besides, being on the job market and earning your own money gives you a taste of freedom, allows you to become more independent, and prepares you for the future. You are likely to come in touch with a large number of people during work and this gives you a better understanding of the world that lies ahead of you.
5. Work Full-Time
If you do not get any part-time opportunities, dive into a full-time job. Working full-time gives you an idea of what lies ahead, allows you to narrow down the career path you intend to take, and can be an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experience.
You can also work remotely. Several industries hire content writers, graphic designers, and web developers to work remotely, either on a full-time or part-time basis. So, if you do not want to jump into a full-time on-site job, consider working remotely.
6. Learn New Skills
It is true that specialization programs are expensive and not feasible for someone on a tight budget. However, there are several skill-development programs that are either free or quite affordable. This can include learning a new language, learning graphic designing, honing your photography skills, learning a musical instrument, and so on. These are valuable skills that can help you in life and allow for all-round development.
In particular, learning a new language has become easier than ever in an era of globalization. There are several online programs that facilitate learning without any fees.
Needless to say, if you develop a strong liking for any of these skills, you can pursue them at a college level. For instance, a lot of students opt for formal music training and if you end up being one of them, there are several music scholarships you can look into.
7. Opt for Internships
An internship boosts your resume like nothing else. It allows you to build relationships with people and hone your skills for future job opportunities. You can opt for internships either in your home country or abroad. From law to zoology, there is no dearth of internship opportunities, even in areas that are not considered traditional, like fashion.
In fact, internships are the best way to gain hands-on experience, become more independent, and be well-prepared for future opportunities. Needless to say, it sets you up for success.
The only downside is that most internships are unpaid. However, this is only a small price to pay for the experience you will gain.
8. Plan for College
We understand that high school can be overwhelming. You may not want to dive into college right away because you may need some time off to focus on your health and mental well-being. It is important to prioritize yourself and if you intend to take a gap year to simply rest, do so by all means.
Besides, many students are confused about what they want to pursue in the future. A gap year is the perfect opportunity to carry out proper research, understand the scope of each field, and then decide what you want to do. Taking time off to make a decision will ensure that you do not make blunders that you’ll regret later and also save money in the long run.
As per research by the Gap Year Association, a gap year helped 40% of the students decide what to pursue in the future and 48% of students reported increased academic motivation.
A gap year without money may seem like a far-fetched dream but it isn’t impossible with careful planning and creativity. The world is full of opportunities and not all of them cost a fortune, so go ahead and make a proper plan and there will be lots for you to do during your gap year.
Take time to explore the world, learn more about the people around you, and decide on what you want to do in the future. Making smart choices and prioritizing the things that you like will help you craft an incredible itinerary for your gap year that will enhance your skills and give you a memorable break from academics.
- Shellenbarger, S. (2010, December 29). More Students Taking “Gap Year” Before College. WSJ. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203513204576047723922275698
- Data & Benefits – Gap Year Association. (n.d.). https://www.gapyearassociation.org/data-benefits/