By Lee Bierer
Last week, we looked at the gap year concept and the benefits from the experience. Where do you go from here?
First step: Apply and get in.
Rising seniors considering a gap year experience should still apply to colleges this fall. The best plan is to apply, get accepted and then request a deferral. Make sure that any scholarships, admission to honors programs, etc., will be honored. Some colleges will not defer acceptances and you will need to reactivate your application or reapply.
Second step: Research options.
Here's my take on some of the best gap year opportunities and resources:
Get paid to volunteer
Americorps: Participants can tutor and mentor disadvantaged youth, fight illiteracy, improve health services, build affordable housing or teach computer skills. Students can earn $4,725 to pay for college or graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans. (www.americorps.gov)
CityYear: A yearlong community service, civic engagement and youth leadership program in the United States and now abroad. Stipend provided. Requires application. (www.cityyear.org)
Student Conservation Association: Provides hands-on conservation service opportunities in virtually every field imaginable, from tracking grizzlies or restoring desert ecosystems to building hiking trails or protecting threatened habitats. Participants receive a weekly living allowance and an education award of $4,725 at the end of their service. (www.thesca.org)
International travel: LeapNow offers a nine-month program that combines group travel in Asia or Latin America, individual internships in 126 countries and community service. Students can earn a full year of college credit. (www.leapnow.org)
Rotary Youth Exchange: Has exchanges in more than 100 countries. In Rotary's signature year-long program, students live with host families and attend school. (www.rotary.org)
Where There Be Dragons: These international programs focus on cross-cultural education, global citizenship and community action. They are rugged learning adventures. (www.wheretherebedragons.com)
Israel: MASA Israel is a clearinghouse of more than 150 opportunities in Israel. Students can experience living on a sustainable farm, on a kibbutz or in major cities such as Haifa, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. (www.masaisrael.org)
Center for Interim Programs: The oldest fee-based consulting service that matches students with an appropriate gap year experience. (www.interimprograms.com)
Enrichment Alley: Free online database where you can search opportunities by areas of interest. (www.enrichmentalley.com)
Planet Gap Year: Free online information and resources for gap year experiences in the United States and overseas. (www.planetgapyear.com)
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser in Charlotte, N.C.