Annually, around 35,000 high school graduates enjoy a gap year before starting college, often before they begin their studies at a college or university.
Moreover, many prestigious schools, such as Harvard, encourage one- or two-year gaps between high school and college, even proposing the idea on its college admission letters.
If you’re unsure about your future prior to graduating from high school, or if you simply need a break between high school and college, you may choose to take a year off to travel, volunteer or work before heading to college. By taking a gap year, you can take the time to acquire new skills, learn about the world, and develop a career path for the future. However, gap years come with their own set of obstacles, including financial issues. In many cases, you’ll need to plan for the gap year, and save up for an enjoyable year of learning and self-discovery. To learn more about how to save for a gap year, review the sections below.
To plan for a gap year, you’ll need to have plenty of money saved, especially if you don’t plan to work during your year off or you’ll be traveling abroad. To get started, track your weekly expenses, determine how much money you need to live, and find ways to cut costs. If your expenses consist of food, rent, gas and entertainment, for instance, cut back on these costs by making meals at home, biking instead of driving, or canceling memberships to gyms, music services, or overpriced television or entertainment packages. Instead of going out for entertainment, stay in and cut back on movie, concert or restaurant costs. If you have any expensive habits, such as smoking, drinking coffee or drinking alcohol, eliminating these behaviors can help you to save money, as well.
Once you start saving money, transfer your savings into a separate bank account and don’t touch it until your gap year. If you have at least a few months until your gap year begins, transfer your earnings into a certificate of deposit (CD) to earn interest on your savings. For instance, short-term CDs are ideal if you have a few months until the start of your gap year, while mid-range CDs are best if you have between one and three years to save. To avoid penalty fees, however, you cannot touch your savings until the end of the commitment period.
Not only does a sustainable lifestyle benefit the planet, but you’ll save money, as well, when you go green. For instance, the following lifestyle changes can help you to save money for your gap year:
If you don’t have any food allergies or dietary restrictions, becoming a food tester can help you earn extra cash for your gap year. As a food tester, you simply test and evaluate food items, complete surveys and provide the testing company with your honest feedback. For instance, various testing companies include Apex Life Sciences, Tasteocracy, Contract Testing Incorporated and the Consumer Product Testing Centre.
Before your birthday or an upcoming holiday, create an online fundraiser through GoFundMe or Fundly that can be used to collect donations for your gap year. Then, send your fundraising page to any friends or family members and post the page to your social media accounts.
To save for your gap year, try working one or more jobs as a dog walker, babysitter, lifeguard, food delivery driver, camp counselor, barista or fast food worker. Moreover, other jobs for high school students with no prior work experience may include the following:
If you have any special skills or artistic abilities, try selling your work on Etsy.
If you have any unwanted children’s books or textbooks, sell them for extra cash. Various places to sell used books include Amazon, Half Price Books, Bookscouter and many independent book stores. For whatever books you sell, transfer the money into your gap year savings account. While you won’t make a whole lot of extra money using this method, you’ll be putting your unwanted books to better use, and making room for the newer books you may want to read in the future.
In addition to selling your used books, use Amazon to sell other belongings, such as unwanted smartphones, CDs, DVDs, clothing, shoes, sports memorabilia and more.
To help you earn extra cash for your gap year, become an online survey-taker through Crowdology, and earn between $0.40 and $10 per survey. Once your account balance reaches $8, you’ll be able to transfer your earnings into your gap year savings account. Similarly, you can get paid to take surveys through Google Opinion Rewards, as well. By downloading the free Google Opinion Rewards app to your smartphone, you simply need to answer quick surveys several times throughout the week to earn Google Play or PayPal credits.
Unless your parent or guardian will continue to pay for your mobile device, you may not be able to afford your current cell phone plan during your gap year, especially if you plan to travel abroad. Instead, try Tracfone or Ting if you don’t need data, as these plans are available for as low as $10 or $12 per month. If you do need data, Sprint’s 2GB plan is available for just $45 per month. Moreover, other top-rated cell phone plans for less than $10 monthly are available from Scratch Wireless, U.S. Mobile and Red Pocket. If you can afford to spend up to $20 per month, try Republic Wireless, Consumer Cellular or MintSIM.
Just like a college scholarship, many grants and scholarships are available to students who wish to take a gap year before heading off to school. For instance, the following scholarships are available to qualifying gap year applicants:
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