Aug 11, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Want a chance to learn more about yourself in a new place before entering university?  Think about taking a gap year.  Moving directly to university from high school can be intimidating all at once.  Consider a gap year—get to know what you want to do and the kinds of things you want to learn.  Travel.  Work. Learn a new language.  Take a break from academics.  Volunteer. 

The benefits are big.  Not only do you develop a deeper understanding of yourself, you become more focused on the things you care about most—and that focus will help you figure out what you want to study when you get to your university.

So.  Here you are.  You’re ready for your gap year.  But how will you pay for it?  Follow these seven strategies and you’re guaranteed to find some success.    

1. Find out how much it will cost

Think of this as Step #1.  Call it “research.”  That’s what you need to do.  Look at the places you want to go and research the costs for the following: accommodation, food, travel, sightseeing, and going out. 

Consider developing a spreadsheet and tracking your options.  For good measure, add an additional 50 percent to each estimate you find (see #7).  Weigh your options—and know about how much money you’re going to need.

2. Apply for scholarships

Some gap year programs offer college credit.  Find out which ones do—and which ones offer scholarships.

Another idea?  Consider program-specific scholarships.  If a gap-year program interests you, research their scholarship opportunities.  Chances are good that yu can find a scholarship that matches your interests.

Another path to consider: general scholarship funding.  These are harder to secure, but some offer funding for gap year students who have specific plans when their gap years end.  Take a look.  

3. Work

Work before you go, or work when you’re there. Ideally, find something that interests you, or, at a minimum, will help you get a better job.  Another possibility is finding a paid internship in a field that you like.

Have you considered temping?  If you’re unsure how to secure a job either before or during your gap year, think about applying through a temp agency.  Your assignments will be varied and will give you a sense of the kinds of work you might want to pursue. 

4. Set up a gap year bank account

Set up an account specifically for your gap year and don’t touch it until you leave.  You’ll be forced to save—and forced to keep track of how much you spend.

5. Sell stuff

Have stuff you don’t need, but someone else might?  Sell it.  Have a yard sale or post it online.  Make sure it’s all in decent condition before you sell it.  Sporting equipment and gear is a big one, as are music, clothes, shoes, books, and even old toys and games that you don’t use anymore.

If you can sell it you can add to that bank account (see #4).

6. Fundraise

Always go back to #1—and then get started.  Run a road race and ask for a sponsorship.  Crowdfund.  Set up an auction.  Hold a small neighborhood barbecue—and charge admission.  Become your neighborhood handy-person.  Have a good old fashioned bake sale.  Find events for which you need financial sponsors.  Get out there and do it. 

7. Top up that bank account

Avoid a bad surprise and make sure you have more than you really need.   Did you think about insurance yet?  No?  Think about it—because if you gets sick or hurt without it, you’re out a lot of money. 

Contemplating sky diving or bungee jumping?  Get the better insurance.  Find out what medical expenses are covered—and which aren’t. 

Have a credit card?  Think about how much cash you want to have on-hand at all times.  It shouldn’t be much.  Credit cards are generally the safest way to travel.  Know how to report a lost or stolen one?  Find out.  

Taking your phone?  Find out how much it costs and what kind of plan you can get.  You’ll be thankful you did.

Ready to go?  Have a great time—work hard, have fun, and learn something.  That’s what it’s all about.

 

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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