4 Ways to Make the Most of Your Gap Year Away From School

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After spending so much time, money, and effort into getting accepted to a college, it might seem crazy to put off attending.

But about 30,000 to 40,000 students — including President Obama’s older daughter in 2016 — do it annually, according to the American Gap Association (AGA). Some universities encourage or even help freshman fund time off campus.

If you’re considering a gap year between high school and college, you’ll want to make it worthwhile.

How a gap year works

First of all, it doesn’t have to be a full year. Many students take a gap year — also known as a bridge or launch year — for a single semester.

Typically, students accepted into college elect to defer enrollment to a later date with their gap-year plans in mind. Some schools, including Harvard University, push students to take a break before beginning their college career. The prestigious Ivy League school estimated on its website that 80 to 110 of its freshman do so each year.

Other universities offer specific gap-year programs. Florida State University, for example, rewards some of its freshmen with as much as $5,000 of support for service-oriented gap-year ideas. Other school offerings include:

Gap years aren’t specific to undergraduates. About 60 percent of Northwestern University’s medical students, for example, take time off before applying for more schooling.

It’s wise to check with your school about its stance on gap years before making plans for your own. Some institutions aren’t exactly on board with the idea.

4 ways to have a productive gap year

According to the AGA National Alumni Survey, students who take a gap year end up with higher GPAs than peers who attend college straight from high school. But not everyone thinks “gapping” is a good idea. Detractors say it’s an expensive interruption and only for students from wealthier families like the Obamas.

To ensure your gap-year ideas are worth your time (and money), consider these four ways to be productive.

1. Broaden your horizons via gap-year programs

The strongest argument for taking a gap year is also the simplest. As a pre-college teenager, this is the one time in your life when you can travel the world without worrying about the responsibilities that most adults fret over.

You’ll just have to figure out how to pay for it.

Thankfully, learning a language and embracing a new culture might not be as expensive as you think. As part of some gap-year programs, you could exchange your time for room and board, especially if you’re placed with a host family in another country.

It might be worth attending a gap year fair to learn about programs in your price range. Consider the following programs:

  • Global Citizen Year: Tuition costs $32,500, though 80 percent of its students receive at least partial scholarships based on merit or their FAFSA.
  • Omprakash: Volunteer overseas and receive support and mentorship. Omprakash can even help you crowdfund your adventure.
  • Service Year: Find gap-year programs that pay a monthly allowance and offer academic credit and student loan forbearance in exchange for your time.

You might also consider AGA’s list of accredited gap-year programs. You can also sign up for BootsnAll’s 30-day email series to flesh out your gap-year ideas.

2. Find your future major

If you’re not sure what you want to study in college, let alone what profession you’ll seek after you graduate, you could use your gap year to narrow your focus.

After all, choosing the wrong major could cost you thousands of dollars.

Give business and economics a test drive in Madrid, Spain, via the Council on International Educational Exchange. Take teaching for a spin by finding related gap-year programs on GoOverseas.com.

You could also pursue less formal training by asking for an apprenticeship. If you’re a high school senior interested in journalism, for example, stop by your local newsroom. If you could imagine taking on your parent’s career, shadow them.

Offer your time for free and observe everything the jobs entail.

Any work experience you can gain before college will not just inform your choice of major — it will also improve your resume as you move toward finding in-school internships. You might even find that you enjoy a trade career that doesn’t require taking out student loans.

3. Establish roots and in-state residency status

Establishing residency in your school’s state to score a lower tuition rate is easier said than done. It can take up to one or two years of living in a state before you can even apply.

But the time and effort could be worth the significant savings. Out-of-state tuition at a four-year public school is about $14,480 more expensive than that it is for residents, according to The College Board.

If you’re an independent student, for example, you could spend your gap year checking the boxes of your school’s residency requirements:

  • Finding a place to live
  • Holding down a job
  • Opening a local bank account
  • Registering to vote

Consult your school’s financial aid office to review its specific requirements before deciding to pursue in-state tuition.

If you take a gap year to move, make sure your financial aid award won’t change by the time you enroll. Your school might have more or less scholarship money to offer you depending on its annual allotment.

4. Save up for school

When you’re admitted to school and find it’s too costly for you in the short term, it might also be too costly to travel to a remote part of the world or even relocate.

But a gap year gives you time to finance your next four years of college. Use the months off to find and apply for scholarships. Take on a job or two to start saving for tuition.

Living at home and eating home-cooked meals, if possible, could help you maximize your savings even further.

And you don’t necessarily have to sell out and work retail. You could volunteer for AmeriCorps, for example, to score thousands of dollars for your college education.

Preparing for your own gap year

No matter how productive you are during your gap year, don’t expect to suddenly be able to gain admittance to a much better school. Colleges are most concerned with your academic record, and it’s unlikely that even high-tuition, gap-year programs can change that.

What a healthy and happy gap year can do is put you in a better position to excel in school.

The AGA survey also found that “gappers” were more likely to be satisfied with their post-college jobs than peers who never took a temporary leave. Maybe that’s because they were afforded the opportunity to stop and take a breath before tackling a higher education.

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1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

  1. Ascent rates are effective as of 04/01/2019 and include a 0.25% discount applied when a borrower in repayment elects automatic debit payments via their personal checking account. Competitive rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval.
    Ascent Tuition Cosigned Loan: Variable rate loans are based on a margin between 2.00% and 11.00% plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 2.491%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an APR range between 4.24% – 13.24%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 5.07% – 14.15%. For Ascent Tuition loan current rates and repayment examples visit www.AscentTuition.com/APR.
    Ascent Independent Non-Cosigned Loan: Variable rate loans are based on a margin between 4.00% and 12.50% plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 2.491%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an APR range between 5.88% – 13.16%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 6.69% – 13.45%. For Ascent Independent non-cosigned loan current rates and repayment examples visit www.AscentIndependent.com/APR.
  2. Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
  3. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment.
  4. Flexible repayment plans may be offered up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount is $2,000.
  5. Interest rate reduction of 0.25% for enrollment in automatic debit applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner signs up for automatic payments and the regularly scheduled, current amount due (including full, flat, or interest only payments, as applicable) is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of In-School, Deferment, Grace or Forbearance. If you have two (2) returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the 0.25% interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments to receive the 0.25% interest rate reduction.
  6. All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
  7. Eligibility, loan amount and other loan terms are dependent on several factors, which may include: loan product, other financial aid, creditworthiness, school, program, graduation date, major, cost of attendance and other factors. Aggregate loan limits may apply. The cost of attendance is determined and certified by the educational institution.
  8. The legal age for entering into contracts is eighteen (18) years of age in every state except Alabama where it is nineteen (19) years old, Nebraska where it is nineteen (19) years old (only for wards of the state), and Mississippi and Puerto Rico where it is twenty-one (21) years old.
  9. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. >Click here for details. In order to be eligible for the 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward, borrower must meet the following criteria after graduation:
    · The student borrower has graduated from the degree program that the loan was used to fund.
    · The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
    · The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
    · Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.


2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. All rates shown include the auto-pay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
  2. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7% variable Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 96 monthly payments of $179.28 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $17,211.20. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
  3. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000.

Information advertised valid as of 4/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.


3 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. At least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualifies for a one-time cash reward of 1% of the loan amount of each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  2. View Terms and Conditions at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/AutoDebitReward.

* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.

5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.

SunTrust Disclosures

Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.

Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.

SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.

  1. Interest rates and APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) depend upon (a) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (b) the repayment option and repayment term selected, (c) the requested loan amount and (d) other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate applicable to your loan. Rates and terms effective for applications received on or after 3/1/2019. The current variable APRs for the program range from 4.251% APR to 13.250% APR and the current fixed APRs for the program range from 5.351% APR to 14.051% APR (the low APRs within these ranges assume a 7-year $10,000 loan, with two disbursements and no deferment; the high APRs within these ranges assume a 15-year $10,000 loan with two disbursements). The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the current One-month LIBOR index to your margin. LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. The One-month LIBOR is published in the Money Rates section of The Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). The One-month LIBOR index is captured on the 25th day of the immediately preceding calendar month (or if the 25th is not a business day, the next business day thereafter), and is rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent. The current One-month LIBOR index is 2.500% on 3/1/2019. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the One-month LIBOR index changes. The fixed rate assigned to a loan will never change except as required by law or if you request and qualify for the auto pay discount.
  2. Any applicant who applies for a loan the month of, the month prior to, or the month after the student’s graduation date, as stated on the application or certified by the school, will only be offered the Immediate Repayment option. The student must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for the partial interest, fully deferred and interest only repayment options unless the loan is being used for a past due balance and the student is out of school. With the Full Deferment option, payments may be deferred while the student is enrolled at least half-time at an approved school and during the six month grace period after graduation or dropping below half-time status, but the total initial deferment period, including the grace period, may not exceed 66 months from the first disbursement date. The Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) is only available on loans of $5,000 or more. For payment examples, see footnote 7. With the Immediate Repayment option, the first payment of principal and interest will be due approximately 30-60 calendar days after the final disbursement date and the minimum monthly payment is $50.00. There are no prepayment penalties.
  3. The 15-year term and Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) are only available for loan amounts of $5,000 or more. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school deferment (including the grace period) will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. Payment examples within this footnote assume a 45-month deferment period, a six-month grace period before entering repayment and the Partial Interest Repayment option. 7-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 7-year repayment term (84 months) and 8.468% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $199.90. 10-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 10-year repayment term (120 months) and 8.938% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $162.92. 15-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 15-year repayment term (180 months) and 9.423% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $136.90.
  4. The 2% principal reduction is based on the total dollar amount of all disbursements made, excluding any amounts that are reduced, cancelled, or returned. To receive this principal reduction, it must be requested from the servicer, the student borrower must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher and proof of such graduation (e.g. copy of diploma, final transcript or letter on school letterhead) must be provided to the servicer. This reward is available once during the life of the loan, regardless of whether the student receives more than one degree.
  5. Earn an interest rate reduction for making automatic payments of principal and interest from a bank account (“auto pay discount”). Earn a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from any bank account and an extra 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from a SunTrust Bank checking, savings, or money market account. The auto pay discount will continue until (1) automatic deduction of payments is stopped (including during any deferment or forbearance) or (2) three automatic deductions are returned for insufficient funds during the life of the loan. The extra 0.25% interest rate reduction when you auto pay from a SunTrust Bank account will be applied after the first automatic payment is successfully deducted and will be removed for the reasons stated above. In the event the auto pay discount is removed, the loan will accrue interest at the rate stated in your Credit Agreement. The auto pay discount is not available when payments are deferred or when the loan is in forbearance, even if payments are being made.
  6. A cosigner may be released from the loan upon request to the servicer provided that the student borrower is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, has met credit criteria and met either one of the following payment conditions: (a) the first 36 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments have been made on-time (received by the servicer within 10 calendar days after their due date) or (b) the loan has not had any late payments and has been prepaid prior to the end of the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments in an amount equal to the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments (based on the monthly payment amount in effect when you make the most recent payment). As an example, if you have made 30 months of consecutive on-time payments, and then, based on the monthly payment amount in effect on the due date of your 31st consecutive monthly payment, you pay a lump sum equal to 6 months of payments, you will have satisfied the payment condition. Cosigner release may not be available if a loan is in forbearance.
  7. If the student dies after any part of the loan has been disbursed, and the loan has not been charged off due to non-payment or bankruptcy, then the outstanding balance will be forgiven if the servicer is informed of the student’s death and receives acceptable proof of death. If the student becomes totally and permanently disabled after any part of the loan has been disbursed and the loan has not been charged off due to non-payment or bankruptcy, the loan will be forgiven upon the servicer’s receipt and approval of a completed discharge application. If the student borrower dies or becomes totally and permanently disabled prior to the full disbursement of the loan, and the loan is forgiven, all future disbursements will be cancelled. Loan forgiveness for student death or disability is available at any point throughout the life of the loan.

6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey


7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.

Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.

Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
If you are unable to pay your government loan, the government can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount. In addition, the government has special powers to collect the loan, such as taking your tax refund and applying it to your loan balance.

A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If you refinance your government loan, your new lender will use the proceeds of your new loan to pay off your government loan. Private student loan lenders do not have to honor any of the benefits that apply to government loans. Because your government loan will be gone after refinancing, you will lose any benefits that apply to that loan. If you are an active-duty service member, your new loan will not be eligible for service member benefits. Most importantly, once you refinance your government loan, you will not able to reinstate your government loan if you become dissatisfied with the terms of your private student loan.

If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you are a borrower with a secure job, emergency savings, strong credit and are unlikely to need any of the options available to distressed borrowers of government loans, a refinance of your government loans into a private student loan may be attractive to you. You should consider the costs and benefits of refinancing carefully before you refinance.

If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.

Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.


8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 4.45%-12.42% (4.45%-12.32% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 5.74%-12.19% (5.74% – 12.09% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.
  2. Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 4.45% – 12.18% (4.45% – 11.82% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of your loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 5.74% – 11.95% (5.74% – 11.65% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. You will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before you accept the terms and conditions of your loan.
  3. Citizens One Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens One reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens One Student Loans private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens One Student Loans-participating school. Please Note: International Students are not eligible for the multi-year approval feature.
  4. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.
4.24% – 13.24%1Undergraduate and Graduate

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