Gap years have incredible benefits for students, and you probably should do a gap year. It’s not just Malia Obama taking one. Gap years have been increasing in popularity in the United States for years.
But you still have to think about how to afford a gap year. If you want to travel the world and do amazing things, you’ll probably need some money for it. And even if you go with a gap year program, often you’ll have to save a little more for hidden costs. (By the way, Winterline’s programs contain no hidden costs, and pricing for all programs is all inclusive.)
Here’s some advice for how to pay for a gap year.
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There are a number of gap year organizations that offer scholarships listed on the AGA website, including our own! Gap year scholarships are great way to pay for a gap year because they’re basically free money — all you have to do is apply and the institution or its partners will offer the scholarship depending on the strength of your application. The cons are that there’s no guarantee you’ll earn the scholarship when you apply, and the time you’ll have to wait to find out depends on the organization.
Scholarships can be earned for anything from merit to need to work-study. Winterline offers early application discounts, merit-based gap year scholarships, as well as work-study scholarships for photography, journalism, or videography. The scholarship application includes a portfolio of student work, with details given at the end of the main application.
We offered $225,000 in scholarships this year.
Also known as asking everyone for money at the same time, crowdfunding your gap year can be an effective way of making up the difference between what you have and what you need in order to afford the gap year of your dreams. It’s a great way to pool money from family, friends, guidance counselors, anyone who believes in what you’re doing and what you hope to learn or accomplish during your gap year.
FundMyTravel has an easy platform for raising funds for your gap year. The site is designed specifically for travelers, so you won’t have to worry about competing with robots or artwork or the next wearable gadget. You can upload your story via videos and photos, and make a case for why someone should fund your adventure. Their payment processor makes sharing finances easy and their social media and email integrations are a no-brainer and a great way to get your tribe on board. Get everyone as excited as you are!
Kickstarter is a great resource if you have a threshold amount that you need to get to in order to set sail. If you don’t hit that amount the money is returned to the funders. This is great if say, you want to do a gap year program but won’t be able to if your crowdfunding turns up short. Kickstarter’s edge is that people will usually fund more if they know it’s a go or no-go kind of opportunity. They’ll get their money back if you don’t do it.
Indiegogo is perfect if you’ve already committed to doing your gap year and you just need more cushion to get it done right. Funds raised on Indiegogo will automatically be transferred to your account at the end of your campaign even if you don’t hit your goal! You’ll get whatever money goes into your campaign, so don’t use this platform if you’re still on the fence about doing a gap year, or you might have to go and return everyone’s money. As with Kickstarter and FundMyTravel, you’ll want to build a strong case for why someone should support you in doing your gap year. What will you learn, what will you be able to contribute, and why should you do it now?
3. Mom & Dad
Let’s face it, the best support almost always comes from family. Whether they can support you financially or help you build a case for a gap year scholarship or a crowdfunding campaign, the best gap year ever might start with help from mom and dad.
If you’re asking your family for financial support for a gap year, remember to bring them into the fold of why this is important to you, and why you think this will help prepare you for college and life! Your parents and grandparents want to know that you’re being supported toward your life goals, or at least on your way toward figuring out what those are! Travel can be the basis for a strong case; so can learning new skills and learning about yourself!
Speak to what they value most and want most for you. Be prepared for that conversation with evidence on the value and benefits of a gap year. Sometimes all it takes is reminding them that you do in fact want to finish college, you just need a break!
4. Save Up
There’s no substitute for earning money yourself and saving it up for your gap year to show that you really care. Working after school and on weekends can be a very effective way to save up toward a gap year, as well as to demonstrate to others that this is something really important to you.
Combining work experience and money saved with crowdfunding or asking your parents can be a very effective way to raise money for a gap year.
5. 529 Funds
Some families may have started saving up for college long in advance with 529 funds. In some cases, families choose to use these tax-advantaged education investment funds toward a gap year program, but it’s important to read the fine print. Some gap year organizations may support it, but it may require credit which can conflict with the deferral policy of your school.
Some gap year programs offer living stipends along with enrollment into the program. These are often service-based programs (which we find problematic). As mentioned earlier, make sure you understand the full range of costs associated with your gap year. If you’re planning your own, check everything. If you’re going with a gap year program, know what costs are covered by the program, and what you’ll need to dig up once you’ve submitted your tuition.
If you’ve been able to gain traction on any of these funding sources, consider setting up a matching fund. Often, funders will want to know that you’ll actually follow through and not give up half-way through funding.
Getting a commitment to match funds with another source can be a powerful way of demonstrating how badly you want to do this. For example, you can ask grandparents to put in a dollar for every dollar you save toward your gap year from working. Or you can ask your parents to match whatever you’ve raised via crowdfunding! You’ll be able to work twice as fast toward your savings goal! Then, you just need to make sure that everyone knows about the matching commitment.
Any combination of these matching commitments creates a strong statement that you’re going to figure out how to do this no matter what. That kind of attitude goes a long way toward getting the right combination of gap year scholarships, crowdfunding, and friends and family support.
Good luck! And have a happy gap year!
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