The American Gap Association website is the jackpot of all gap year websites. It’s the go-to place for anything gap year related, whether you’re a prospective gap year student in the midst of compiling a personal gap year agenda or a parent investigating the real costs and benefits of a gap year before allowing your child to take one.
Recently founded in 2012, the American Gap Association is an “accreditation and standards-setting organization for Gap Years”, recognized by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, that “advocate[s] for accessibility to Gap Year education and the proliferation of Gap Year scholarships.” The AGA website goes beyond the basics – from What is a gap year? to Why should I take one? to How do I pull it all off? – to provide a greater number of reliable resources for both students and parents wanting more information and advice about the gap year option. (I wish I had discovered this resource when I was planning and taking my own gap year a few years ago, but I only just heard about it from a friend currently planning to take a gap year herself).
But, why the fuss? What does the AGA’s website have that other gap year websites don’t?
- Statistics: Since gap years were first popularized in the UK in the 1970’s and have only recently gained popularity in the US, it’s difficult to find any concrete data for gap year interest and enrollment trends. The greatest trouble I had with my gap year wasn’t planning it or executing it, but rather convincing my parents – and all those nosy neighbors and extended family – that taking a year off did not mean I’d skip college altogether and become a deadbeat couch potato for the rest of my life (Absolutely ridiculous. If you thought that, you never really knew me – I’m sure plenty of you considering a gap year have been in this situation of explaining – because I love learning, and a pack of ten-ton rhinoceroses couldn’t keep me from attending college. Honestly.). These statistics – because adults love charts and numbers, right? – can definitely come in handy when you attempt to persuade your parents (and explain to everyone else) why you should take a gap year, and how it can significantly improve your college experience, your career path, and your life.
- Gap Years in the News: The AGA updates its website fairly frequently with informative articles and news stories about gap years. This is a great place for prospective gap year students to learn more about the gap year option and see what other students like themselves have done on their own gap years. Go and browse the long page of links for stories like Business Insider’s article on two North Carolina teens gapping to 11 different countries and “Time Out or Burn Out For the Next Generation” written by Harvard University admissions officers (I was happily surprised to discover my gap year interview on HuffPost Live in April 2013 was also cited on the AGA’s gap year news page. Ha, small world.).
- Legitimacy: The AGA accredits gap-year-appropriate organizations based on a set of standards recognized by the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission that measure the integrity and philosophy of the organization, safety standards for programs located in developing countries, quality of service-oriented learning, the organization’s partnerships for outsourced activities. Here is a current list of AGA accredited organizations, including the famous Amigos de las Americas and Thinking Beyond Borders, and a list of non-AGA-accredited organizations that are nonetheless popular among gap year students, such as One Small Planet and WWOOF.
- Financing advice: Many people inaccurately believe that you need money (and lots of it!) in order to take a gap year. False, false, false! There are plenty of ways to do a gap year on a small budget, and there are plenty more ways you can earn money during your gap year (whether you want to spend that money on gap year travel or save it for your college funds). The AGA has a whole web page dedicated to helping students find ways to fund their gap years, including gap year scholarships.
- Additional resources: The AGA website has a BUNCH of additional resources, with advice on airfare, safe travel, cultural expectations, and cash and communication plans. Check out the Resources tab at the top of the AGA website homepage.
The concept of taking a gap year can be quite intimidating in itself, but the arduous task of planning one and taking one can be absolutely overwhelming. The American Gap Association can be an incredible support in the development of your gap year, and while it’s not the only legitimate gap year website around (AGA actually lists plenty of others on its own website), it’s a great place to start.