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Gap Year Opportunities

 

Planning tips: Give yourself at least one year, preferably even two, to prepare for and apply for national gap year opportunities like the Peace Corps. Just like planning and applying for national scholarships and fellowships, you need to not only stay on top of your deadlines and application expectations, but also make the most of every opportunity while an undergraduate. Taking time to plan will also allow you to recognize which opportunities best fit you and what you plan to pursue in graduate school and/or in your career.

Upon graduation, you will find that funding for specialized gap year opportunities that include funding are more difficult to come by and, therefore, more competitive. There are certainly opportunities to volunteer, but if you are looking to support yourself through a gap year, even minimally, you will need to develop a competitive application. If you intend to use these gap years to help further your own development personally and professionally, then it makes sense to pursue those opportunities that are still in keeping with your previous studies and interests. You should be able to indicate your preparation through formal study, undergraduate research, volunteer, service, and leadership experiences, foreign language training, internships, international study, and so forth.

ONSF deems these years “bridge years” or “years of intention” and encourages you, whatever your discipline, to consider what you might gain and what you might contribute if you venture out. Consider volunteering with an NGO that works with street children in India, apprenticing with a marine researcher in Fiji, or interning at an embassy in France.

One of the most important things you must do during your gap-years is to maintain relationships with your faculty, advisors, and others who have mentored you. Even if they have already written some kind of letter of recommendation for you, a lot can happen in 1-2 years. And, anyway, the whole point of building those relationships has less to do with any kind of letter and everything to do with how they have and will continue to help you as you plan your future. So, make a point of staying in touch without any strings attached. Send an email, check-in, visit when back on campus, set a coffee date, read what they are currently working on in their own research, and just do the good, important work of staying in touch.

Remember that the ONSF is available to support you even after you graduate and keep in mind that it is never too late to consider opportunities to make the most of your gap years. As a current UT student or as an alumnus, you have a lot of resources at your disposal. We are finding more and more recent graduates connecting with us on Fulbright, UK and Ireland, and other nationally competitive applications, which we welcome!

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