In general, the best way to fund your Gap Year, whether domestically or internationally, is a combination of working a bit, fundraising a bit, and asking for scholarships a bit. And while working may not be the most exciting thing to do, it certainly is a good way to save some cash for your experience. In every case, however, we do recommend contributing financially to your experience: truest to the nature of a Gap Year, working hard to contribute financially helps manifest your ability to take ownership of your own experience.
Some of the best ways to fundraise for Gap Years include thinking outside the box and reaching out through grassroots methods rather than major donors. Getting creative and reaching out to your own community is one of the most time-honored and easy ways to raise several thousand dollars. This can include a letter writing campaign to family, your church, or local businesses. In the past people have gotten insanely creative, like reaching out to a local radio station or newspaper to do an "interest piece," or by seeking funding through some more media-savvy methods like these two guys from the UK who created a youtube channel about their Gap Year that earns them revenue through advertising. http://www.telegraph.co.uk. Check out our ideas on more inventive fundraising below!
College Credit and Financial Aid for your Gap Year:Some scholarships and grants require that you get college credit in order to be eligible. Because some Gap Year programs also offer college credit, this is something you should look into as well. This means using an AmeriCorps award from previous service, or even simply using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) funds including a Pell grant, or Federally subsidized college loans. While earning college credit should't be the primary purpose of your Gap Year, adding it to the equation can certainly save money both in reducing the overall cost of your Gap Year and in reducing the overall time of your schooling. Another great resource was suggested by a group of students in Seattle and is helpful towards understanding the tax implications around college and where appropriate deductions can be had. Thanks guys!
In fact, many colleges are beginning to offer scholarships that are fairly well built for Gap Year graduates. An example includes:
- Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, NC. They have a Gap Year focused scholarship available for incoming freshmen. "Community Engagement & Leadership Scholarships - Awarded to students who have shown leadership capacity in any of a number of ways, including involvement in some form of volunteer activity (i.e. Habitat for Humanity, Food Not Bombs, social justice activism, etc.). Students may also be considered who have excelled in opportunities such as student governance, gap-year programs, semester schools, Outward Bound and NOLS trips, etc. A minimum GPA of 2.75 or higher is required for consideration by the committee. Renewal is automatic if the student maintains full-time continuous enrollment with a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester and a cumulative 2.75 GPA."
Scholarships and Grants
All scholarships have certain requirements, or must be used at specific schools/programs by specifically qualified people ... so make sure to read the requirements section of each scholarship carefully. The deadlines for submitting scholarship applications are usually far in advance of the time you'll be going abroad so it's good you're looking early.
- Hostelling International are offering eighty-one (81) $2,000 travel scholarships in 14 locations. www.hiusa.org. Applicants need to be 18 at the time of travel.
- Most individual programs also offer either scholarships (some quite substantial), or at least tuition reductions to bring this type of program within reach. Contact the program you're going through (if you're not doing an independent Gap Year) and ask. The worst they can say is "no." In 2015, AGA organizations gave away almost $3,000,000 ... so the money is out there if you ask!
- The StudySoup Future Innovators Scholarship Program is designed to further propagate access to education for all, and is a $2,000 scholarship for outstanding students enrolling in or continuing to pursue education opportunities. Students must be a U.S. resident at least eighteen (18) years old who are either currently attending high school, or, currently attending an accredited university or college (undergraduate and graduate students are both eligible).
- http://thepollinationproject.org. The Pollination Project gives $1,000 startup grants to individual change makers and projects that promote compassion around the world.
- http://exchanges.state.gov. The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. Previous language study is not required, and language learners of all levels are encouraged to apply.
- http://exchanges.state.gov. This is a scholarship for recent high school graduates or current high school students aged 16-18 to focus on "high need" languages. The current list includes: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajik), Russian and Turkish.
- http://testdriveyourfuture.com/gap-year-scholarships. This is a great organization that has scholarships specifically designed for Gap Year students.
- www.livfund.org. LIVFund was established in 2011 in order to recognize and proudly support study, internship and volunteer opportunities in Latin America. LIVFund has been designed for anyone who wants to learn, intern or volunteer [LIV] in Latin America and is seeking financial assistance in order to offset program or living abroad expenses. Their goal is to help others get the most out of their experience abroad... Maximum Award: $500.00 Eligibility: Anyone the age of 18 or older. Deadline: On going, you can apply up to six months prior to going abroad.
- www.fundforeducationabroad.org. Requires university credit. Fund for Education Abroad. The newly established Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) was created in order to open doors for deserving education abroad students. Starting with the 2011-2012 academic year, FEA will award funds for students planning to study abroad on any academically rigorous programs. Designed by the FEA Advisory Board, FEA scholarships are intended to meet the financial needs of students who might not be eligible for government grants or existing funds limited to specific programs or groups of students.
- http://unofficialambassadors.com. Requires university credit. Competitive scholarship for students who are primarily going to Muslim countries.
- https://www.fgscholars.org/grit/. The Foundation for Global Scholars is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Denver, Colorado whose mission is to create global citizens and leaders by assisting students in achieving their personal and professional goals of obtaining cultural and academic experiences abroad. The Foundation will support this mission by awarding scholarships to help enable students to obtain an international experience. Students who are from underrepresented populations in international education are a priority.
- www.scheppfoundation.org. Requires university credit. Schepp Foundation (if in good GPA standing)
- http://www.aatj.org/studyabroad/scholarships.html. Requires university credit. The Bridging Scholarships Program is designed for undergraduates going to Japan not on a summer program. Semester awards are for $2,500.
- http://scholarships.goabroad.com. Goabroad.com is a leading provider of information for study abroad and have compiled their own study abroad scholarship database.
- http://studyabroad.msu.edu/people/studentsofcolor/scholarships.html. Requires university credit. Scholarships for Multicultural Students - a database hosted by Michigan State University.
- http://www.rotary.org. Rotary Scholarships for undergraduate, graduate & vocational study.
- www.fafsa.ed.gov. Requires university credit. Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the main clearing house you'll need for the biggest Federal financial aid pieces including the Pell Grant, and the Stafford and Perkins college loans.
- www.broweryouthawards.org. Earth Island Institute Brower Youth Awards for 13 - 22 year olds living in North America who show outstanding leadership on a project or campaign with social impact of environmental impact
- www.starbucksfoundation.org. Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Action Grants for service and activism
Educational Travel Scholarships
www.iie.org/programs/Gilman. Requires university credit and Pell grant eligibility (ie, a high need). The Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship.
http://www.iie.org/en/programs/freeman-asia. Requires university credit. This is for students primarily going to Asia and offers scholarships up to $7,000.
More Inventive Fundraising
- www.volunteerforever.com. This is sort of like crowd sourcing for your own volunteer program. You can find volunteer programs, and the set up a profile like Kickstarter, to fund your own experience.
- www.telegraph.co.uk. This is what two guys have done in the UK to creatively fund their own Gap Years through a youtube channel that they basically have turned into a funding engine for their lives!
- http://matadornetwork.com. This is a great article by a longtime friend, Blake Boles, describing creative ideas for fundraising travel. Travel can be expensive, but some of these ideas can take the sting out of the pocket book and put a smile on your face.