Record numbers of high school graduates choose to take a gap year before heading off to college.

Instead of going right back to school, students defer their college acceptances in favor of taking some time to gain global perspective and reflect on themselves.

In fact, a TD Ameritrade survey from 2017 found that 35 percent of high school students had the prospective of a gap year on their minds. With the rising cost of higher education, choices like a gap year are being more openly discussed between students and parents in U.S. households.

Here are some examples of gap year programs for college-bound teens.

Outward Bound

Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

Outward Bound (866-467-7651,

Program possibilities include mountaineering, dog-sledding and more. Some courses are physically and mentally challenging, including carrying a 50-pound pack or climbing a 14,000-foot peak. Programs that last between 30 and 85 days.

Thinking Beyond Borders

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Thinking Beyond Borders (203-993-0236,

This program combines cultural immersion and experiential learning. Students travel to multiple countries and live with host families, learn the language and participate in fieldwork with local experts in areas such as public health or environmental sustainability. During the signature gap year program, participants travel to Guatemala, Thailand, Cambodia, Morocco and more.

The Leap

Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

The Leap (

A UK-based organization that boasts volunteering opportunities (environmental, teaching/child care, community building and sports), internships (medical, law, teaching, child care and business) for a summer or a semester across Africa and South America. Every program includes a mix of projects in various locations.

Young Judaea

Credit: Lior Yaari

Young Judaea (866-599-2534,

The Year Course program in Israel lasts nine months and offers up to 30 college credits while participants learn Hebrew, volunteer and live with peers from the United States, Israel and around the world.

Pictured: During Lior Yaari (center) of Centerport's gap year in Israel, she experienced an Army boot camp for foreigners.

Projects Abroad

Credit: Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad (888-839-3535,

The Global Gap year emphasizes cultural exchange and contribution to service projects in developing countries in fields such as education, housing, environmental conservation and more. Participants visit five different countries over the course of the academic year -- Ghana, South Africa, Peru, Nepal and Thailand.

The Experiment in International Living

Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

The Experiment in International Living (800-345-2929,

High school students or recent graduates can enroll in a three- to five-week summer program in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Teens will explore the host country through hands-on experiences and homestays in local communities through specific themes, such as the arts, environment, politics, human rights, food systems, cultural diversity and social justice.

Dynamy Internship Year

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Dynamy Internship Year (508-755-2571,

Internship Year combines full-time, unpaid internships, adventure challenges, apartment living and professional mentoring to help students explore and prepare for a career path. Located in Worcester, Massachusetts.


Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

VisitOz (

Head to Australia and work in rural and Outback areas on farms and ranches (horses, tractors, sheep, cattle), in hospitality (pubs, roadhouses, rural resorts, farm stays and museums), child care, teaching, nursing, construction and more. Participants must complete the initial nine-day farm training and safety course before their employment begins.

Aspire by API

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Aspire by API (516-600-8977,

As a language and cultural immersion program, students have the chance to study a semester abroad in Argentina, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and more. Participants will have opportunities to get involved with the local community, earn college credits and develop global skills.


Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

CIEE (207-553-4000,

All CIEE Language & Culture and Service & Leadership offerings include a curriculum of language classes and intercultural study, while the Global Internship programs include intercultural study as well as a professional development course. Programs are available in Ghana, Morocco, China, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, Chile, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

Where There Be Dragons

Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

Where There Be Dragons (800-982-9203,

Each gap semester is 12 weeks long, and prices vary based on the region. Participants can choose locations in Latin America, China, India, Nepal, West Africa and more. Housing is primarily in homestays. Every program includes trekking, language study, volunteer work, analysis of development issues in the country and more.

Art History Abroad

Credit: Art History Abroad

Art History Abroad (

Students will learn about the greatest masterpieces of Western civilization from the ancient world and the Renaissance to the modern era. All teaching is done on-site (in groups of nine or less) by expert tutors who draw connections between art history, philosophy, music and literature. The program countries include Italy, France and England.

Youth for Understanding

Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

Youth For Understanding (800-833-6243,

Recent graduates can choose a year, semester or summer program and choose from more than 60 countries including Belgium, Mexico, Spain, Romania, Thailand and more. Students will be immersed into the culture through educational opportunities and by learning the history, language, art and culture while living with a carefully screened host family or in a dorm.

Summit Adventure

Credit: USA Gap Year Fairs

Summit Adventure (559-642-3899,

This Christian cross-cultural immersion program blends education, adventure and service. United States courses are offered in Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley. Abroad programs include Ecuador, Mexico and Israel. Courses include leadership, communication, spirituality, cross-cultural ministry and outdoor physical education. Students can earn up to 18 academic credits for the experience.

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