How to Fund Your Gap Year

by | Mar 15, 2022 | Gap Year Finances

Looking for advice on how to fund your gap time? Here are some tried-and-true tips and resources to help you seek outside funding as well as leveraging your own sweat equity towards your gap time!

One thing to note is that due to the pandemic and its affect on the travel industry, I’m noticing fewer travel scholarships than usual this year. 



Rotary Grants: Contact your local Rotary Club to see if you can present about your gap year plans. It’s common for these clubs to contribute to gap year plans they find compelling. 

 Ivy Panda Essay Writing Contest (closes May 30): provides $1500 in scholarships annually for talented students who demonstrate mastery of essay writing. Scholarships will be awarded to two winners: the winner will receive $1,000; the runner-up prize is $500.

Brower Youth Awards (closes May 14): Youth environmental change leaders ages 13 to 22 (as of May 14, 2021) living in North America are encouraged to apply. Each of the six recipients of the Brower Youth Awards will receive a $3,000 cash prize, a professionally produced short film about their work from an Emmy Award-winning film crew, and flight and lodging accommodations for a weeklong trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. EdGE Grant: For those interesting in volunteering internationally with an Omprakash partner, this grant offers up to $2500 to defray the cost of travel expenses. Rolling application. 



Gap year programs often offer in-house scholarships and financial aid. At the very least they will offer payment plans. Ask your chosen programs about possible funding strategies and see what’s possible.

529 Funds: If your gap year program is credit-bearing, you should be able to unlock 529 account funds to help pay for it. In addition, Gap Year Association accredited programs are also eligible for credit, and thus 529 funding. Ask Julia for details.

See additional details about paying for your gap year program with 529 funds through GYA here



You have a gap year story to tell, and you can use that story to help fund your gap time. Check out this fundraising manual from Carpe Diem and this blog post from GYA for ideas on fundraising for your gap time. 

Here are some of my favorite strategies:

  •  Get creative! Host an event (virtual or safe in-person) that brings focus to your gap year plans and requires some sort of entry fee. Popular examples include trivia nights, dinner parties, small concerts, 5k fun runs and more. See below on how to creative prizes and incentives for participants.
  • Set up a Raffle. You can even ask local businesses to donate or sponsor a product like a free pair of shoes, a gift certificate or other gear. Use the donated items to create a raffle to double your earnings or use them as prize offering for a creative event. Prize offerings increase participants and more participants earn you more money for your trip.
  • Contact community clubs and organizations, churches and local business to sponsor or contribute to your raffle or just donate to your gap year fund. 
  • Car wash! Host a car wash with some of your supportive friends or family. It’s Covid-safe and can be a good money-maker. Make sure to put on the signs that it’s a fundraiser – in my experience that results in extra tips!
  • Graduation crowd-fund: Make sure your family knows about your gap year plans and that graduation money will go towards your gap year. Have your parents put your plans on your graduation announcement. 
  • Consider crowdfunding for a specific need, like the cost of your flights.
  • Write letters to ask support of trusted family and family friends.

If you decide to seek donations or crowdfund, plan to involve your donors in your gap year updates – keep a blog to allow them to follow along. Find public ways to thank your sponsors. Treat everyone who contributes to your year as a valuable stakeholder. 



Get your hands dirty and work hard to fund your own gap time! 

Here are some ideas that have worked for previous gappers:

  • Summer jobs: Work as much as possible the summer after graduation (or the period before your gap time begins) to earn money to put towards your time.
  • Leverage your creative talent to earn extra cash:
    • Photographer? Take senior portraits, family portraits or offer to be a second photographer at summer weddings (contact wedding photographers directly to inquire). Sell your photography online or display at a local coffee shop.
    • Artist? Offer to display your work at local businesses like coffee shops or cafes. Sell your work on etsy. Make sure friends and family know you are doing this so they can share. Make sure I know you are doing this so I can share!
    • Graphic artist? Design logos for new businesses, offer your services to people in your community or join and join the gig economy that way.
    • Cook? Offer to cater small dinner parties or bake bread on Fridays to sell to your neighbors. 
  • Join Task Rabbit, Uber eats or other gig economy websites to work extra hours as needed.
  • Post on your local community forum that you are available for whatever services you’d like to provide your neighbors like dog walking, house sitting, babysitting, yard work and more. 

There are so many ways to earn extra cash in fun ways – if you need more ideas just say the word!