How to Save Money for a Gap Year (+ 3 Gap Year Scholarships)

From studying traditional arts in the Himalayas to learning Spanish on the beaches of Barcelona to caring for wildlife in the desert in Namibia, a gap year will give you amazing opportunities to expand your global perspectives. However, these experiences can be expensive, so you’ve probably been finding yourself wondering how to save money for a gap year.

person sitting in a hammock in bali
Ready to have this view for a whole year?

How to save money for a gap year is a burning question among gappers seeking to spend time abroad. Most students who have graduated high school or college choose to take a gap year to help them navigate future paths in life. Not only do gap year programs cater to high school or college students, but they also offer programs for senior citizens, families, and professionals seeking a break.

Mind you, not all gap “years” are a whole year — some are a few weeks or a few months, so you can save less money for a shorter program length. Funding a gap year involves seeking help from family, friends, counselors, and program advisors in a variety of ways. With some planning, good habits, and valuable resources, you’ll soon be able to fill your gap year savings piggy bank!

How to fund a gap year

1. Create a FundMyTravel Account

First, sign up for a FundMyTravel account. Second, create a campaign. Third, spread the word. Voilà! You’ll then see the $$$ roll in. (Well, pretty much. You’ll probably want to add some details.)

Your friends and family would love to learn more about why you’re funding for a gap year. Personalize your story in a video or some other creative way (photo slides, diagrams, art, etc.), and you may even see more shares on your social media pages.

You can also motivate them with holiday-themed incentives throughout the year. Plus, the FundMyTravel staff are always happy to help and provide additional ideas and resources.

2. Ask for money or gap year gifts

person sitting on a beach at golden hour
Funding a gap year sometimes comes down to strategy.

Your neighbors, friends, and family usually plan to give gifts for your graduation party that pertain to college, such as books, planners, organizers, etc. Instead, request money or gifts that pertain to your gap year program on your invites.

Will your gap year program involve many outdoor activities? You could make suggestions for guests (or set up a registry) with items you’ll need, such as a duffle bag with wheels, hiking boots, or a good water bottle.

Is your birthday or Christmas coming up? Make sure you tell everybody that money or gap year gifts will make the day even more special for you because you’ll be closer to achieving your travel dreams.

3. Open a savings account for your gap year

Forget about stashing money in a piggy bank under your mattress. Do a little sleuthing online and see what banks offer savings account with a high interest rates. Ideally, you’ll want a savings account that makes it difficult to withdraw money for a certain amount of time. The account you choose should also have low (or 0) monthly fees and require a small minimum deposit and balance.

Once you’ve chosen your bank, set up a way to deposit money into your account directly from your paycheck or checking account. The best part is tracking your progress over time and seeing your money make money!

4. Do extra to fund your gap year

One of the best answers to how to fund a gap year: Do extra! Whether it’s hosting a bake sale, picking up more shifts, or selling clothes, you can do a variety of extra things when funding a gap year.

Paying for a gap year can happen with in-person fundraisers at car washes, silent auctions, and garage sales. If you have a special skill that you can market, such as tutoring, photography, or babysitting, find a way to make extra dough with that skill.

Sometimes you might want to give up vices like sundaes, lattes, or retail therapy to help save money. Doing a little extra will require some sacrifices, but it’ll all be worth it in the end for your gap year program!

5. Choose an affordable gap year destination

view of lombok, indonesia
Skip Europe and go for Southeast Asia!

More popular countries like the UK or France may seem alluring, but the high cost of living may drain your budget quickly. Paying for a gap year doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg! If you’re looking for one of the easiest answers to how to save money for a gap year, look no further than gap year programs in countries like Ecuador, Vietnam, or Uganda.

You’ll be able to enjoy more delicious dishes, scenic discoveries, and exciting activities that’ll make even more one-of-a-kind memories. Plus, you might have extra money to visit neighboring countries! Some countries like Australia and New Zealand offer working holiday visas for young adults, which will offer the opportunity to work while you spend a gap year abroad.

6. Plan your gap year budget 

When paying for a gap year, you’ll need to keep in mind the program fees and what that includes, administrative costs, and travel gear you’ll need. Make sure you look for websites ahead of time that offer great deals on airplane tickets and accommodation packages.

After you have an idea of what you’ll need to get to your destination, you’ll also need to calculate what you’ll need to budget on a weekly basis. You’ll then have a much better idea of your FundMyTravel campaign and personal savings goals, and you’ll be better prepared for covering your gap year adventure expenses.

7. Apply for a gap year scholarship

Many organizations that host gap year programs squirrel away money to help participants cover program fees and travel expenses. Keep in mind that most gap year scholarships are for students who just graduated high school or who are in college.

The majority of these scholarships are merit- and need-based that require an application essay or video interview. Be sure to talk to your high school or education abroad counselors about current gap year scholarships. You can always surf the web too prior to enrolling in a program to see which organizations offer scholarship opportunities.

3 gap year scholarships to check out

1. Rustic Pathways Gap Year Scholarship

Rustic Pathways awards up to $40,000 in gap year scholarships annually to students based on merit and financial need! Students who are applying for a single semester program can apply, and they can submit an application with a deadline of about a year in advance. The scholarships are limited and can cover 25% to 100% of the program.

2. EF Gap Year Scholarships

As long as you’re a student enrolled in an EF Gap Year or Gap Semester program, you can apply for their scholarships. The submission requirements vary based on whether you’re applying for the Global Citizens Scholarships or the Global Influencer Scholarships. You could receive up to $10,000 in program fee reduction costs! Deadlines vary based on program start dates.

3. CIEE Global Navigator Merit Scholarship

Students who apply for this scholarship must submit their gap year semester or year-long program application at the same time as their scholarship application. They must have at least a 3.0 GPA and provide a teacher recommendation, and CIEE accepts applications on a rolling basis. Recipients can receive up to 20% off tuition costs for a single semester.

Paying for a gap year doesn’t have to be overwhelming

person with backpack waiting at a carriage
Investing in a REALLY good backpack is definitely part of paying for a gap year.

You now know how to fund a gap year with these ace tips up your sleeve. Spending a gap year abroad will help you grow as a person in ways you never imagined — you can also learn a language, make a difference, build skills, and more! Planning ways to earn extra income, putting away savings, and applying for scholarships will help make your gap year dream come true.

The best way to get started with funding a gap year is to create a campaign with FundMyTravel with a goal in mind to cover a large bulk of the costs. You can then use other methods to fill in the gaps for other expenses.

Whether you’re ziplining in Costa Rica, volunteering in the Philippines, or interning in Greece, the time you spend raising funds will be well worth the unique experiences you’ll have — and the unforgettable memories you’ll make!

Create a FundMyTravel Campaign to Grow that Gap Year Money Tree!

Sydney LutzThis article was written by Sydney Lutz. Growing up as an “army brat,” Sydney could not help but develop a thirst for traveling. She has visited all 50 states as well as England, France, Canada, Germany, and Australia. Sydney graduated with a master’s degree in public communication and technology in Colorado, and taught abroad for a year in Quito, Ecuador. Her favorite things to do include studying Spanish, practicing yoga, and travel writing.

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