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The Ultimate Gap Year Guide for Teens: Make the Most of Your Time Off

The Ultimate Gap Year Guide for Teens: Make the Most of Your Time Off

Why a Gap Year?

Hey, you've just graduated high school, and you're not sure what's next. No stress! A gap year is a great way to explore your interests, hone your skills, and get a taste of real-world experience. It's not about putting your life on pause; it's about taking control and figuring out what makes you tick.

Steps to Plan Your Gap Year


First things first, let’s figure out what you want. Are you into tech, arts, social justice, or maybe a mix? By understanding your passions, we can make sure this gap year doesn’t turn into a "gap yawn."

Set Objectives

What do you hope to gain? Do you want to travel, get work experience, or maybe learn a new language? Be specific with your goals; it will make planning way easier.

Research, Research, Research

Look into different opportunities that align with your objectives. If you aim to gain work experience, look for internships. For travel, find affordable and safe destinations that can offer you the experience you seek.


Let's talk money. Make a budget that includes travel, living expenses, and maybe a little extra for the unexpected.


Map out a timeline for your gap year. It’ll help you avoid long periods of doing, well, nothing. Remember, this is your time to grow!

Safety First

Make sure you take into account safety measures, especially if traveling is part of the plan. Get vaccinations, insurance, and familiarize yourself with local laws and customs.

Options to Explore


If you're leaning towards a specific career path, an internship is a hands-on way to dive in. Plus, it’ll look good on your resume.


Pack your bags and expand your horizons. You'll meet new people, learn new cultures, and come back with stories that will make everyone wish they took a gap year.

Online Courses

If you're more of a homebody or want to keep costs down, online courses can be a perfect fit. They can give you the skills you need for the career you're eyeing.

Volunteer Work

Want to make a difference? Volunteering allows you to give back and gain some incredible life experiences along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Does This Help Your Career?

A gap year is more than just a break; it can be a strategic move for your career. Gaining real-world skills, networking, and building your portfolio can make you a stronger candidate for any future job or educational opportunity. 

What is a Gap Year, Anyway?

A gap year is a year-long break taken between high school and college or between different levels of education. It's a chance to step back, gain some real-world experience, and figure out what you really want to do with your life.

Will Taking a Gap Year Affect My College Admission?

Not necessarily. Many colleges are open to the idea of students taking a gap year. Some even encourage it! Just make sure you communicate with the admissions office about your plans.

What Can I Do During My Gap Year?

You've got options! Travel, work, intern, volunteer, or take online courses. The world is your playground, and this is your time to explore.

How Do I Plan My Gap Year?

Start by identifying your goals. What do you want to learn or achieve? Then, research opportunities that align with those goals. Don't forget to plan your budget and consider the timing of each activity.

How Much Will It Cost?

The cost can vary widely depending on what you plan to do. Traveling abroad for a year can be expensive, while local volunteer work might cost very little. The key is to plan and budget carefully.

Do Employers Value Gap Years?

If done right, absolutely. A well-spent gap year can make you more mature, focused, and employable. Just make sure you're gaining skills and experiences that are valuable in the job market.

Can I Earn Money During My Gap Year?

Yes, many people work or intern during their gap year. It's a great way to earn some cash while gaining experience in a field you're interested in.

How Do I Know If a Gap Year is Right for Me?

Ask yourself, are you clear about your career path? Do you feel burned out from school? Are there skills or experiences you want that you can't get in a classroom? If you answered yes to any of these, a gap year might be a good fit.

Will I Lose Touch with My Friends?

It's a possibility, especially if they're moving on to college or other endeavors. But hey, that's what social media is for, right? Plus, you'll make new friends along the way.

What if I Get Bored or Lonely?

A well-planned gap year should keep you engaged. However, it's natural to have moments of loneliness or boredom. Keep a network of support, stay in touch with friends and family, and remember why you chose to take this year off.

Can I Still Apply for Scholarships?

Yes, many scholarships are still available to students who choose to take a gap year, but you may have to do some extra research to find them.

How to Pay for Your Gap Year: Practical Tips and Tricks

Ah, money. It makes the world go round, and it's also what's going to make your gap year possible. So, how do you come up with the cash to fund this adventure? Don't worry, we've got you covered with some solid options.

Work Before You Go

One tried-and-true method is to work for 2-3 months before you set out on your journey. Get a part-time job, a summer gig, or even a full-time position for a short stint to save up. Remember, you're not just working for the money; you're also gaining valuable experience that can benefit you down the road.

Freelancing On-the-Go

If you have skills like writing, graphic design, or social media management, you can freelance while you're traveling. Websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer make it easy to find gigs. This allows you to earn money and keep your trip funded without having to stay in one place for too long.

Apply for Grants or Scholarships

There are various grants and scholarships designed specifically for students taking a gap year. These funds can cover anything from travel expenses to project costs. The key is to start researching and applying early.


Got a unique or impactful gap year project? Share it on platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter. People who find your mission compelling may just help you raise the necessary funds.

Cut Costs While Traveling

Remember, you don't have to live large while you're out and about. Opt for budget accommodations, use public transportation, and explore cost-effective meal options. The money you save on these things can be used for experiences that genuinely enrich your life.

Selling Your Stuff

If you have items you don't need, why not sell them for some extra cash? Platforms like eBay or Craigslist make it pretty simple.

Use Budget Tools

Keep track of your expenses. There are several apps available that can help you manage your money while you're away. This way, you know exactly where you stand financially at all times.

Paying for a gap year can seem daunting, but remember, where there's a will, there's a way. With some planning, creativity, and resourcefulness, you can make it happen without breaking the bank. 

Gap Year Ideas Based on Careers You Are Interested In Testing

1. Software Developer

  1. Take an online coding course.
  2. Build a small app or website.
  3. Contribute to open-source projects.
  4. Attend a hackathon.
  5. Intern at a tech startup.

2. Environmental Scientist

  1. Volunteer for conservation projects.
  2. Take an environmental science course.
  3. Intern at an environmental agency.
  4. Join a local environmental club.
  5. Conduct a mini research project.

3. Journalist

  1. Start a blog or vlog.
  2. Freelance for a local newspaper.
  3. Intern at a news station.
  4. Conduct interviews and publish them.
  5. Cover local events and publish your stories.

4. Photographer

  1. Take a photography course.
  2. Offer free photoshoots to build your portfolio.
  3. Intern with a professional photographer.
  4. Enter photography contests.
  5. Create a photo documentary.

5. Veterinarian

  1. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
  2. Shadow a veterinarian.
  3. Work at a pet store.
  4. Take a basic animal science course.
  5. Assist in pet adoption events.

6. Fashion Designer

  1. Take a fashion design course.
  2. Create your own designs and showcase them.
  3. Intern with a fashion label.
  4. Assist in a fashion show.
  5. Start a fashion blog.

7. Architect

  1. Take an introductory architecture course.
  2. Visit historic buildings and document them.
  3. Use CAD software to design a simple project.
  4. Intern at an architecture firm.
  5. Volunteer for a construction project.

8. Chef

  1. Take a cooking class.
  2. Work in a restaurant kitchen.
  3. Start a food blog or YouTube channel.
  4. Cater a small event.
  5. Explore different cuisines through travel.

9. Animator

  1. Take an animation course.
  2. Create your own short animation.
  3. Intern at an animation studio.
  4. Attend animation festivals.
  5. Explore different animation software.

10. Nurse

  1. Volunteer at a local hospital.
  2. Take a basic first aid course.
  3. Shadow a nurse.
  4. Work as a healthcare aide.
  5. Volunteer for a health outreach program.

11. Social Worker

  1. Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
  2. Take a sociology or psychology course.
  3. Intern at a social services agency.
  4. Help organize community events.
  5. Advocate for a cause you care about.

12. Aerospace Engineer

  1. Take an astronomy course.
  2. Visit air and space museums.
  3. Attend aerospace workshops.
  4. Build and launch model rockets.
  5. Intern at an aerospace company.

13. Video Game Developer

  1. Learn a game development platform.
  2. Create a simple video game.
  3. Attend game developer meetups.
  4. Review video games critically.
  5. Intern at a game development company.

14. Botanist

  1. Take a plant biology course.
  2. Create a home garden.
  3. Volunteer at a botanical garden.
  4. Document local flora.
  5. Intern at an agricultural research center.

15. Teacher

  1. Volunteer as a tutor.
  2. Assist in community education programs.
  3. Take an educational psychology course.
  4. Shadow a teacher.
  5. Work as a summer camp counselor.

16. Electrician

  1. Take a basic electrical course.
  2. Assist an electrician.
  3. Work on small home projects.
  4. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
  5. Learn about electrical safety and regulations.

17. Filmmaker

  1. Take a film-making course.
  2. Create a short film.
  3. Assist on a film set.
  4. Write a screenplay.
  5. Attend film festivals.

18. Psychologist

  1. Take an introductory psychology course.
  2. Volunteer at a mental health clinic.
  3. Assist in academic psychology research.
  4. Read psychology case studies.
  5. Attend psychology seminars.

19. Physical Therapist

  1. Take an anatomy course.
  2. Volunteer at a physical therapy clinic.
  3. Learn basic exercise physiology.
  4. Shadow a physical therapist.
  5. Assist in a sports training center.

20. Marketer

  1. Take a marketing course.
  2. Create a social media campaign.
  3. Intern at a marketing agency.
  4. Conduct a market survey.
  5. Create your own brand or product.

21. Plumber

  1. Take a plumbing basics course.
  2. Assist a professional plumber.
  3. Work on simple home plumbing projects.
  4. Learn about plumbing tools and safety.
  5. Visit plumbing trade shows.

22. Pilot

  1. Take a basic aviation course.
  2. Experience a discovery flight.
  3. Visit airshows.
  4. Use flight simulators.
  5. Shadow a professional pilot.

23. Graphic Designer

  1. Take a graphic design course.
  2. Work on freelance design projects.
  3. Intern at a design studio.
  4. Build a portfolio.
  5. Learn different design software.

24. Pharmacist

  1. Volunteer at a pharmacy.
  2. Take a pharmacology course.
  3. Learn about drug interactions.
  4. Shadow a pharmacist.
  5. Intern at a pharmaceutical company.

25. Musician

  1. Take music lessons in your chosen instrument.
  2. Perform at local venues.
  3. Record a demo.
  4. Study music theory.
  5. Collaborate with other musicians.

26. Accountant

  1. Take a basic accounting course.
  2. Work part-time in a finance role.
  3. Learn how to use accounting software.
  4. Volunteer for tax preparation services.
  5. Intern at an accounting firm.

27. Mechanic

  1. Take a car repair course.
  2. Assist in a local garage.
  3. Work on your own car.
  4. Learn about different types of engines.
  5. Intern at an automotive company.

28. Police Officer

  1. Volunteer for community patrol.
  2. Take a criminal justice course.
  3. Participate in a police ride-along.
  4. Learn about law enforcement procedures.
  5. Intern at a local police station.

29. Biologist

  1. Take a basic biology course.
  2. Volunteer for field research.
  3. Intern in a lab.
  4. Document local fauna.
  5. Participate in science fairs or workshops.

30. Actor

  1. Take an acting class.
  2. Audition for community theater.
  3. Join an improv group.
  4. Create a reel of your performances.
  5. Work as an extra in films or commercials.

This should give you a good start to explore different careers and figure out what you're passionate about!

Why You Should Travel In Your Gap Year

Broaden Your Perspectives

When you travel, you're exposed to new cultures, ways of life, and perspectives that you might never encounter otherwise. This expanded worldview can help you identify careers that are aligned with your values and interests. You may discover social issues that ignite your passion, leading you to careers in activism, social work, or international relations.

Develop Soft Skills

Traveling often requires you to adapt to new situations quickly. You learn problem-solving, adaptability, communication, and even budgeting. These soft skills are valuable in any career but especially important in roles that require strong interpersonal skills or decision-making abilities.


You never know who you might meet while traveling. It could be a business owner, a scientist, an artist, or anyone in between. These connections could offer insights into careers you've never considered before or could be valuable contacts for future opportunities.

Discover Unknown Interests

Ever thought of marine biology but never seen the ocean? Or maybe you have a fascination with history but haven't experienced other cultures' historical landmarks. Being in a new environment can spark interests you never knew you had, guiding you toward a career that can keep you engaged for a lifetime.

Self-Reflection and Independence

Traveling, particularly alone, offers a rare opportunity for self-reflection. You'll spend a lot of time contemplating what you want, what interests you, and what doesn't. This personal insight is incredibly valuable when choosing a career. Plus, proving to yourself that you can navigate new places independently can be a serious confidence booster, preparing you for the challenges any career will undoubtedly present.

So, don't underestimate the power of travel when considering your future. The skills you gain, people you meet, and personal growth you experience could be the keys to finding a fulfilling career path.

Gap Year Organisations and Links

Travel and Cultural Exchange Programs

  1. EF Gap Year - Website
  2. Global Citizen Year - Website
  3. AIFS Study Abroad - Website

Volunteer Opportunities

  1. GVI (Global Vision International) - Website
  2. International Volunteer HQ - Website
  3. Projects Abroad - Website

Skill Development Programs

  1. NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) - Website
  2. Outward Bound - Website
  3. Le Cordon Bleu (For those interested in culinary arts) - Website

Professional Internships

  1. The Intern Group - Website
  2. GoAbroad - Website
  3. Global Experiences - Website

Conservation and Environmental Programs

  1. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) - Website
  2. Earthwatch - Website
  3. Conservation Volunteers Australia - Website

Educational Programs

  1. Where There Be Dragons - Website
  2. The School for Field Studies - Website
  3. SEA Semester - Website

Medical and Healthcare Programs

  1. Gap Medics - Website
  2. Atlantis - Website
  3. Medical Projects - Website

Tech and Coding Programs

  1. Le Wagon - Website
  2. Ironhack - Website
  3. Codecademy - Website

Language Immersion Programs

  1. CIEE (Council On International Educational Exchange) - Website
  2. Language Vacation - Website
  3. Rosetta Stone - Website

Arts and Media Programs

  1. NYFA (New York Film Academy) - Website
  2. ArtistYear - Website
  3. Adventures in Writing - Website

Outdoor Adventure Programs

  1. Wilderness Adventures - Website
  2. Adventure Treks - Website
  3. Bold Earth - Website

Political and Civic Engagement Programs

  1. City Year - Website
  2. AmeriCorps - Website
  3. Lead for America - Website

Research and Academic Programs

  1. MIT's Gap Year Research Program - Website
  2. Gap at Simon's Rock - Website
  3. The Arete Project - Website

Marine and Wildlife Programs

  1. Oceanic Society - Website
  2. Broadreach - Website
  3. Sharklife - Website

Social Entrepreneurship Programs

  1. UnCollege (now part of Verto Education) - Website
  2. Envoys - Website
  3. Global Changemakers - Website

Journalism Programs

  1. JIRP (Journalism Internship Research Program) - Website
  2. The Poynter Institute - Website
  3. World Press Institute Fellowship - Website

Gap Year Sucess Stories 

1. Emily - Marine Biologist

Emily was always interested in science but didn't know which field to focus on. She took a gap year to volunteer in a marine conservation program in Australia. The hands-on work experience with marine life fueled her passion for marine biology. She's now studying marine sciences at college.

2. Diego - Urban Planner

Diego loved architecture and design but wasn't sure how to apply his skills. He spent his gap year working on urban planning projects in Latin America. Witnessing the impact he could make clarified that he wanted to become an urban planner.

3. Aisha - Public Health Specialist

Aisha was interested in medicine but wasn't keen on becoming a doctor. During her gap year, she volunteered in rural healthcare camps in Africa and found her calling in public health. She’s now studying public health policy.

4. Raj - Entrepreneur

Raj was good at many subjects and couldn't decide on a single career. He spent his gap year in a startup incubator program where he developed a successful app. This experience cemented his interest in entrepreneurship.

5. Tasha - Journalist

Tasha always loved writing but was unsure if she could make a career out of it. She took a gap year to work as an intern for a local newspaper and realized journalism was her calling. She's now in a communications program at university.

6. Ken - Teacher

Ken had a knack for explaining complex subjects but never considered teaching. During his gap year, he tutored kids in underserved communities. The work was so fulfilling that he decided to pursue a career in education.

7. Mei - Environmental Engineer

Mei was a whiz at math and physics but didn't know how to channel her skills. During her gap year, she worked on renewable energy projects and decided to become an environmental engineer.

8. Carlos - Physical Therapist

Carlos was athletic but suffered an injury that ended his sports dreams. During his gap year, he volunteered in a physical therapy clinic and found his new passion. He's now pursuing a degree in physical therapy.

9. Fatima - Human Rights Lawyer

Fatima was torn between law and social work. She took a gap year to intern at a human rights organization and realized she could combine her interests by becoming a human rights lawyer.

10. Simon - Chef

Simon always enjoyed cooking as a hobby. During his gap year, he apprenticed at a high-end restaurant and fell in love with the culinary arts. He's now attending culinary school.

Each of these teens gained valuable work experience and insights during their gap years, enabling them to choose a career path that genuinely excites them.


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Careers That Matter provides online programs to teenagers across the globe. The organisation is based in Melbourne Australia. We have students from across Australia including Sydney, NSW 2000, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Perth, WA 6000, Adelaide, SA 5000, Hobart, TAS 7000, Canberra, ACT 2600, Darwin, NT 0800. We also take students from The United Kingdom including London, Europe, and the United States including New York , Canada, New Zealand including Auckkland and Wellington, and Asia including Singapore and Malaysia.