Finances as they relate to college can be some of the most tricky that are out there … let alone finances for your Gap Year. Especially so, however, when you're considering that Universities often have some rules around deferring to take a Gap Year. The traditional line of action in a Gap Year is:

  1. Apply to college and get accepted. This is nice so that you have a plan. Granted, plans change and as you get greater clarity from your Gap Year, this very will likely will happen. However, plans often enable you to be more present throughout your Gap Year.
  3. Ask for a deferral to do your Gap Year. Almost every university will offer a deferral, or a leave of absence, but differing universities will have some pretty radically different approaches for what strings such deferrals hold. In some cases, they may ask you to not enroll at another university. In other cases they may say you simply can't earn a certain number of credits. In every case, though, you should check with your Admissions Counselor at the university to make sure that if you have any strings attached, often to Financial Aid, then you know about them and don't run afoul.
  5. We've found that Tier 1 schools are almost always excited to have you do a Gap Year. They know the benefits it will have to you, to their campus life, and quite frankly they're in no shortage of applicants. Tier 2 schools often are a mixed bag. While most of them are very much in support of a Gap Year, they will often put more strings to your deferral - in short, if they like you, they want more assurances that you'll come back to that school after your Gap Year. Tier 3 schools (typically big State schools) will often either say there's no need to defer, just re-apply at the end of your Gap Year. Or, they may - in rare cases - not even have heard of a Gap Year. So as in all things in life, be sure to advocate for yourself and refer any unaware Admissions Representatives to the American Gap Association website:

Getting your Gap Year in order can be simple, … and complicated, depending obviously on the scope of your endeavors. A Gap Year, can be as short as a few months, and can last … well, obviously a year or more. As such, you're looking at anything from $100-$200 dollars, to programs that will cost as much as $35,000. But, there's no "right" way to do your Gap Year - and a transformative experience that helps you get clarity about your future and Self, can be incredibly cheap. Please visit our {Member Organizations} and {non-member programs} to get a sense for just what options are out there, as well as what they cost. Also, check out the {Financial Aid} page that's here in the Resources section for ideas on fundraising.

Travel Finances

Put everything valuable to you in a money belt and wear it. One of the most common mistakes is putting the money belt in your back pack, then getting distracted and having the entire thing stolen. This includes travel documents, ATM cards, etc.

  • Find out about the costs associated with using your ATM card in different machines. Often times, there's a per-use fee, and a percentage-based fee (of as high as 5%) for use overseas.
  • Carry a credit card as a backup.
  • Don't bring it unless you're comfortable having it stolen. A $3,000 camera can be nice, but if you get so focused on its security then it's easy to miss all things you're actually there for.
  • Travel insurance is a great idea, but do your research. Organizations like International SOS, iNext, insuremytrip, STA, and Access America all have great insurance policies but you should know what you're covered for. And don't forget health insurance and medical evacuation … if something bad happens, making sure that you can get to good health care is literally vital.
  • Be responsible with your money. In the developing world, what your airfare likely cost is more than what most people will earn in a year. Additionally, even in the States, the cost of you taking a Gap Year is immense to many - so perhaps a bit of charity isn't a bad idea at home either.
  • When traveling overseas, don't buy foreign currency until you get there and when you do use the ATMs. Bad exchange rates cost a lot especially when you're buying an "unattractive" currency.
  • Make sure the bills you bring are crisp. It's not uncommon for a local vendor to refuse a US dollar bill if it doesn't look newish.
  • Travellers' cheques are not recommended these days. … Just use your ATM.


Recognizing that your Gap Year is for you as well as it is for your parents is often a revelation that occurs too far into the process to really take advantage of that separation. One of the worst things that you can do on your Gap Year is to grow overly dependent on communication. Remember that one of the major tenets for Gap Years is to go out of your comfort zone and carrying mom and/or dad "in your pocket" makes the process of self-awareness and independence more difficult. The problem isn't calling when you're happy and want to share, but when you're being faced with challenges and in reaching out thus abdicate the decision process to someone else. So unless you're traveling in a structured program, bring a cell phone as a safety net, but if you're using it more than once every other week then you should consider easing off.

Email is available EVERYWHERE in the developing world … unfortunately, in the more developed countries, like the United States, or Australia, sometimes the only places to get public access to the internet is through your smart phone, the local library, or at a hostel.

Don't forget about timezones when traveling overseas. It may seem fairly minor, but constantly getting woken up at 4am back home isn't as fun as you may think.

Traveling anywhere with a cell phone can be one of the best ways to have email, and emergency access to the internet. Cell phones can pretty consistently be purchased overseas with a pay-as-you-go plan. Bringing your US-based cell phone overseas with either be extremely expensive (as much as $8/minute) or simply unusable. If you want to bring your phone, make sure it's "unlocked" and uses a SIM card for the GSM network that's most consistent overseas.