Top 5 Gap Year Programs for Students


Instead of jumping straight into college, we are finding that more students are interested in taking a gap year. Doing this can help gain experience, real world knowledge and a deeper understanding of who they are and what they want to do. We decided to compile a list of our top 5 gap year programs for students.

There are hundreds of gap year programs or programs like gap years that accomplish the goal of giving college aged students real world experience. With there being so many, we wanted to narrow down your search for you.

Here are our top 5 favorite gap year programs! 

1. UnCollege/Year On

Year On’s gap year and gap semester programs give high school graduates the confidence, clarity, and direction needed to succeed in college and beyond. Students volunteer in one of our five locations abroad: India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, or Tanzania. 

The students go to San Francisco where they learn skills and habits through guided self-discovery, projects, and peer-to-peer learning. Throughout the program, students work closely with our coaches to help them set goals, hold themselves accountable, and guide them through the process of growth as they prepare for college—and life.

We love what Year On provides for students looking for some hands on experience. They have programs ranging from 5 weeks to 12 weeks in length. 

2. Thinking Beyond Borders

A variety of Gap Year programs, including the 2-semester Global Gap Year, South America Gap Semester, and Asia Gap Semester combining deep cultural immersion, fieldwork with experts, and engaging readings and discussions. They have Fall and Spring semester options ranging from 13 weeks to 7 months in length. 

Thinking Beyond Borders ensures their programs focus on shaping the future with purpose through experience. 

They also have a relationship with Western Colorado University to offer college credit to those that attend a gap year. You can gain real-world experience while working towards a degree if that is what you choose after your gap year. 

3. Outward Bound

Featuring 3 month and shorter Gap Year courses. For over 50 years Outward Bound has been a premier provider of experiential and outdoor education programs for youth and adults. Outward Bound offers courses in some of the most spectacular and inspiring settings in the United States and in Central and South America, successfully preparing students to confront the challenges they face today with self-confidence, tenacity and compassion.

We love Outward Bound because they have programs for students, adults, veterans, professionals, grieving teens and families. 

“Exploring new environments and building new connections will put your tenacity to the test. You’ll return with a broader understanding of the natural world around you, deeper appreciation for small kindnesses and greater confidence in yourself and others that will serve you well long after you return.”

Another thing to love about Outward Bound is that they partnered with Western Colorado University so students can accumulate course credits while attending ‘Outward Bound’.

4. Where There Be Dragons

3 month Gap Year programs in China, Himalayas, Asia, South America, West Africa, Indonesia, Central America, and the Middle East. Fall and Spring departures.

Here is a bit more about Where There Be Dragons and the type of participants they are looking for. 


We are a global community representing 6 continents, over 30 countries, and countless languages, villages, NGOs, religions, and host families. Our instructors are graduate students, returned Peace Corps Volunteers, U.N. development professionals, veteran wilderness guides, and career teachers. 


25+ years of experience guiding groups and managing risk in the context of international education has made Dragons the leader in cross-cultural and experiential education. 


People who are willing to adventure into the unknown for the sake of discovery. People who want to lean into challenge and be inspired by expert mentorship along the way. Those that seek more meaningful, ethical, and authentic travels. 

5. Your Project X

Jeff Hittner is the founder of Your Project X and is a Successful Dropout. This isn’t technically a gap year program but ‘Your Project X’ has incredible opportunities to intern abroad and gain real-world experience.

Here is a breakdown of the projects that you could be working on: 

  • A social innovation project where you’ll gauge and prototype implementation of a social innovation technology (water filter, vision technology, energy solution, etc.).
  • An organizational consulting project where you’ll provide strategic & tactical advice to a local organization, education/health organization and/or local social enterprise and consult on everything from marketing to performance evaluation to program design.

See the projects they’ve worked on in the past here and projected social innovation projects and organizations they will be working with in 2020 here.

All this to say…..

Do you question what to do after high school? We recommend choosing from our top 5 gap year programs and taking time to think about it! 

Successful Dropout is a community of outliers and we thrive on giving people options to step off the conveyor belt. We want you to take control of every facet of your life. Gap Years are an incredible option. 

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

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