Gap Year Information & Programs

Getting Started
Why Take a Gap Year

Students take gap years for many reasons: to travel, work, volunteer, or engage with other interests. Most students find their gap year to be a deeply enriching experience – an invaluable opportunity to expand their comfort zones, gain real-world experience, and take stock of their values and beliefs.

And while the change of structure and perspective that a gap year brings are worthwhile in and of themselves, studies indicate a bevy of positive correlations between taking a gap year and performance and satisfaction in the classroom, personal motivation and sense of purpose, and job satisfaction following graduation.

Interested in hearing about the experience from a Penn student? Read about Gap Year Experiences from recent Penn students.

Funding a Gap Year

Participating in a formal gap year program can be quite expensive (typically around $13K for a semester or upwards of $30K for a year-long program). Fortunately, there are many ways to make a gap year affordable. Many gap year programs offer financial aid and scholarships. (You can find a roundup of gap year scholarships and grant opportunities on external websites such as GoOverseas). Outside of formal gap year programs, many students work for part or all of their gap year. For some ideas, see the "Work, Volunteer, and Work Exchange" portion in the options list below. 

Applying to Penn After a Gap Year

While most students who take a gap year do so after having been admitted to Penn, it's perfectly acceptable to apply during or after a gap year. Students applying to Penn while on a gap year should follow the same process as any other applicant to Penn – the Penn Admissions website can be a helpful resource. However, keep in mind that the Admissions Committee will also be interested to understand how you have been spending your time while on your gap year, so don’t forget to include those activities and experiences in your application.

Penn Support

While Penn does not offer its own formal gap year program, on average, roughly 50 incoming Penn students take a gap year each year. Learn more about the procedure for getting a gap year approved under the admission approval information of our main resources section. 

Penn Abroad also supports opportunities for students returning from a gap year to connect and build on their experience. Join Penn's global community and review returnee information on our returnees resources page.