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Our Experts!

Nathalie Folkerts ('16) spent a year in France through Rotary. Aidan Orly ('16) traveled independently in Peru, Australia and Thailand.


Contact Aidan Orly

Contact Nathalie Folkerts

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

What is a gap year?

A gap year, in the context of Pomona College, is often a year of deferral taken after high school and before coming to college. During this year, many students will work, volunteer, live and/or travel both within and outside of the United States. Every gap year is different, and there are no guidelines or restrictions of what a gap year is or ought to be.

What types of activities could I do on a gap year?

Students do many different things on their gap years. You can stay in your home country or go abroad. Some people volunteer, work, take classes, stay with host families, or just travel. Check out our Student Profiles to learn about what other Pomona students have done on their gap years.

When is the best time to take a gap year?

There is no objectively “best time” to take a gap year - it depends on the individual. A lot of people take gap years in between high school and college, but other people take gap years during or after college. Taking a gap year before college may allow you to better develop your sense of self, gain certain skills, and consider what you want to do in the future.

Does a gap year have to last the entire year?

There is no set definition of what a “gap year” should be - it can be whatever you want it to be! Some people go abroad the whole year while others go for a few months. Gap years can be based in your hometown, elsewhere in the US, or in a different country. Read some of our Student Profiles to learn more about what some Pomona students have done.

How do I know if a program is reputable?

Making sure that you find a safe and trusted program is very important if you’re hoping to do your gap year through a program. Before signing up for a program or paying any fees, always check to be sure that the program is certified with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

How can I find out about different programs?

There are a lot of different resources you can look to. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has compiled a large list of them at their website:

The American Gap Association has also begun creating a list of programs:

You can also contact us to learn more about what other Pomona students have done on their gap years. Many students did a lot of research before planning their year, so they know a lot about different programs. Contact Aidan Orly at or Nathalie Folkerts at if you’re interested in learning more.

Do you feel uncomfortable being a year older than your peers?

While some students comment on occasionally noticing the age difference among peers, no Pomona students felt it was a major problem. In addition, your specific age matters much less in college than in high school, so most students have no problems relating to their peers.

Do you feel like you are now “behind schedule?”

No; while it is sometimes difficult to accept a different track other than the four years of high school followed by four years of college followed by graduate school, almost every student feels that what they gained from their gap year allowed them to grow in a worthwhile way.

How many people take gap years in the US? At Pomona?

No official statistics are kept for how many Americans take gap years, but the numbers have been rising based on reports of high school counselors and college admissions officers. At Pomona, it varies year by year, generally between 5 and 15 students.

What happens to my financial aid?

In order for gap year students to be considered for financial aid, it is necessary to apply again for the year in which you will be a first-year student in the same way as you would apply for financial aid in any given year.

Should I apply for college if I’m planning to take a year off?

Everyone does this differently; some people apply before they leave and then defer enrolment, others apply while they are on their gap year. Both methods work and they depend on you personally. Keep in mind that if you are traveling abroad or will be in places with limited internet access, completing application forms may be difficult.

How can I pay for my gap year?

Many people pay for their own gap years, including many Pomona students. Some students elect to participate in programs that are free/scholarship based, such as Rotary Youth Exchange, City Year, or Americorps. Other students elect to work and earn money locally or abroad and then use that money to travel or complete a project. Other people work abroad as part of their gap year experience. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can pay for your own gap year, contact Nathalie Folkerts at

Did you find it difficult to get back into classes after your gap year?

While it may take some readjustment to the logistics of school work, many gap year students relate an increased motivation and greater sense of purpose and direction that enhances their performance and college experience.

What are the benefits of taking a gap year?

While each gap year experience yields different benefits, many gap year students often cite similar benefits, including increased appreciation for various cultures, a stronger sense of confidence and independence, and a greater idea of themselves and what they want to accomplish during their years at college and beyond. See the Student Profiles to see what students have to say.


Frequently Asked Questions for Parents

Why should I consider letting my child go on a gap year?

Gap years often provide students the opportunity to learn “life skills” that four years in college may not teach. By leaving their comfort zone, often in a foreign country, students learn to maneuver uncomfortable situations and become more independent. While no gap year experience is the same, gap years taken before or during one’s undergraduate experience provides an opportunity for young adults to take an extended period of time to engage in an activity without the pressures or constraints of those that may come later in life. Additionally, gap years are a great way to take a step back and evaluate one’s goals and perspective, rather than rushing into college.

What does Pomona College think about gap years?

Pomona is often excited by the prospect of a student taking a gap year because gap year students often return to campus with greater perspectives on the world, experiences other students often have not had, and greater motivation to take leadership positions.

What will a gap year cost?

Because every gap year is different, the price range for gap years also vary. Some programs, such as Rotary, provide scholarships such that all travel and living expenses are paid for. Other programs, such as WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) provide room and board in exchange for volunteer service. However, other programs, such as Semester at Sea, do cost thousands of dollars, but students can also work locally or in foreign countries to pay for their gap years, and even come out of their year with a surplus in their bank accounts!

Will my child lose interest in going to college?

In general, Pomona students have stated that their gap years have increased their motivation to do schoolwork and become more involved in activities, events and extracurricular activities at the College.