Are All Gap Years Created Equal?

With a rising tide of the number of high school graduates looking to take a gap year, the industry is bulging with opportunities.  There are international travel gap years, employment gap years, intentional development gap years, and of course; the go “backpack Europe” style year away from academia.

As the industry tries to embrace all the new faces in the gap year world, it’s important for clients who take a gap year to understand how to know what product they are actually paying for.

1.  Ask your Gap Year provider how long the actual program is in operational weeks.

We at the KIVU Gap Year are constantly watching the market to see if all gap years provide at least a similar level of quality and service.  In our initial comparisons, one significant difference in the “sticker price” cost of a Gap Year is the number of weeks a student is actually on the program.

For example, you might find a Gap Year priced for $10K, but they only provide an 8 week program.  While another program might cost $20K for a 20 week program.  So on first glance, a student might consider a cheaper Gap Year program but what they actually get is a two month excursion into a companies chosen target point of action.  Programs may also be advertised as 3-months, 8-months, or 9-months in length, but also include holidays and breaks.  For instance, At KIVU, we have a 3 week holiday for Christmas and New Years.  Other programs have spring breaks as well.  Some don’t have any breaks!

So the first point in shopping for a Gap Year is  – Make sure you understand how long the Gap Year is going to give you away from the academy.

2.  How long will you spend traveling?

In our world, it is important for students to travel abroad.  The KIVU Gap Year spends almost four months in various countries around the world providing live in home stays, internship opportunities, and a professionally guided trip to a few of those global bucket list locations.  (For example, we provide a professionally outfitted and guided trip to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro while students are in Africa.)

Some Gap Year’s boast of international travel, but they only spend a week or two overseas site seeing like a tourist.  If that’s your thing – GREAT!  But if you’re looking for a true immersion into a culture that is different from your own, be sure you ask the hard questions about how much time you’ll be overseas, and what is the purpose of the travel.  Make sure you’re getting what you want.

We’ve seen some Gap Year’s price out at $15K and market a certain level of travel that is later an “add-on.”  In other words, the cost of the program is $15K but the international portion will be another $5K if you decide you want to go with the group, leaving your Gap Year tab up near $20K.  See what I did there?  I sold you a $15K product that actually costs $20K for the full experience.  (Kind of like those in app purchases on iTunes games I get so frustrated with.)

Bottom line, ask the hard questions about the total cost for the value you’re getting.

3.  Make sure you’re getting the experience you want.

At the KIVU Gap Year, we started by intentionally differentiating ourselves from the normal schedule of regular academia.  We only have a certain number of hours in classroom setting, so that students have the chance to actually go out and experience the world the way it really is.

Some of our competitors boast of having a Gap program, but spend over 80% of the time during their season sitting in a classroom duplicating exactly what is happening in high school and at the university.

A Gap Year, at least in our mind, is supposed to be a place of exploration.  We want students to see a part of the world different from the one they came from.  We hold a time honored value that a student who couples experience and classroom, will have a better chance understanding some of the complex issues plaguing the world today.  We don’t see the benefit in simply placing students in a classroom so they can continue to regurgitate information.  They’ve got to feel the problems as well as learn them.

Bottom line, ask your Gap Provider how much time they will be spending sitting in a classroom versus going out into the world to learn.

So are all gap years created equal? – Far from it.

Each program has a specific time frame, a specific goal in mind, and a specific way of pricing the program in a way that appeals to the consumer.  At The KIVU Gap Year, we strive to be up front and honest with the real-time costs associated with taking a year to travel the world, log over 900 hours of internship experience, stamp their passport in up to 6 countries, explore some of the world’s most beautiful attractions, and keep our standards of excellence and safety at the top of the game.

If you’re looking for a Gap Year Provider for this fall, or you know someone looking for a Gap Year program, be sure you do your homework.  Not every program is the same in cost or value.

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