Are you feeling more than just apprehensive at the thought of graduation? Struck with a sense of impending doom when you read the current employment statistics? Fear not! There are an amazing number of programs available to both current students and recent graduates aimed at filling that infamous “gap year”.
Traditionally, the gap year was used to describe a year-long delay in college enrollment after high school. Now, however, many recent college grads are also using the year after graduation to travel, pursue their interests and ease their transition into the workplace or graduate school.
The majority of the programs require commitments up to a year in length, and are geared towards community development and outreach in urban or very rural areas. Most offer stipends, living allowances and scholarships. Other programs provide comprehensive medical and dental benefits for their participants.
English grads are incredibly useful in these fields; the combination of teaching, communication and problem solving skills that you possess are sought after in positions like these. Listed below are some of the more prominent programs in the country.
Non-profit service organization for young people ages 17-24. City Year has locations in most major U.S. cities, including Chicago, as well as Europe and Africa. Participants work as tutors, mentors, role models and leaders of after school programs.
- Length: Full-time, 10 month commitment
- Benefits: Stipend, education award/scholarship, basic healthcare, cell phone and service
- Application Due Dates (2012-13): September 30, November 15, February 15, April 30
Faith based, non-profit service organization that collaborates with the Sisters of the Good Shepard to minister to women, adolescents and children in situations of poverty and neglect. The site placements vary, though all are on the East Coast, and include work in education, youth counseling, social work, domestic violence, economic justice, fair trade and after school programs
- Length: Full-time, 1 year commitment (Domestic), 12-15 months (International)
- Benefits: Stipend, education award/scholarship, housing, medical and transportation allowances
- Application Due Dates (2012-13): Domestic (priority: March 1, final: June 1) International (priority: February 1, final: April 1)
A highly competitive non-profit teacher’s corps aimed at bringing teachers into low-income communities across the U.S., including Chicago. The program doesn’t require an undergraduate degree in teaching or elementary education, but you must have a bachelor’s degree and 2.50 GPA.
- Length: Full-time, 2 year commitment
- Benefits: Salary (30,000-51,000), comprehensive medical benefits, educational loan repayment/scholarship assistance and retirement benefits
- Application Due Dates (2012-13): The 2012 application period has ended, but visit the TFA site for updates on the 2013 application.
Federal program created through the National Service Act of 1990. AmeriCorps is made up of three main programs: AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps Vista and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps)
- AmeriCorps Vista- specifically designed to fight poverty through literacy programs, providing health services, creating business and strengthening community groups. This division has position placements throughout the U.S., including the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs.
- Length: Full/part time, 1 year commitment
- Benefits: Stipend, education award/scholarship, possible loan forgiveness
- Application Due Date (2012-13):Rolling admissions, varies with position
- AmeriCorps NCCC- designed to strengthen communities, develop leaders and partner with non-profit groups to complete service projects. Program includes training in CPR, First Aid and public safety. Individuals will be placed at one of five campuses, located in Denver, Colorado; Sacramento, California; Perry Point, Maryland; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Vinton, Iowa.
- Length: Full-time, 10 month commitment
- Benefits: Stipend, living allowances (housing, meals), medical benefits and childcare.
- Application Due Date (2012-13): Rolling admissions, but loosely, Fall cycle (April 1) Winter Cycle (August 1)
National, non-profit organization linked with the U.S. Natural Resource Programs, NORA, The Nature Conservancy, and AmeriCorps. Provides internships and corps positions geared towards environmental education, wildlife management, and historical/cultural resources. The SCA has placements for its volunteers throughout the country with community programs in Chicago.
- Length: Full-time, 3-10 month commitment
- Benefits: Stipend, living allowances (housing, meals), medical benefits, education award/scholarship
- Application Due Date (2012-13): Rolling admissions
A year-long service program for adults ages 21-30. Volunteers live in a community in St. Louis and work with the poor through a variety of organizations that have a Vincentian connection—working with a Vincentian priest or brother, a Daughter of Charity, or another person grounded in the spirit of St. Vincent DePaul.
- Length: Full-time, 10 month commitment (August to June)
- Benefits: Room and board, monthly expense reimbursement, health insurance, student loan deferment, educational award/scholarship
- Application Due Date (2012-13): Applications accepted into July prior to the August orientation; preference given to applications submitted by April 1
This transitional teaching opportunity offers a wide range of jobs both in the U.S. and abroad. Some require no credentials other than being a “native speaker”, while others might ask for an ESL certificate, diploma from a four year institution, or even a MA. If you do choose to pursue a certificate to increase your chances of securing a position, some programs can be completed in as little as four weeks. Stipends vary according to the programs that you choose, many offer medical benefits and cover transportation and living costs. If you’re interested, check out Professor Christine Tardy’s site http://condor.depaul.edu/~ctardy. Professor Tardy also teaches WRD 378: Teaching ESL in Chicago, a junior level, experiential learning course.
Other Gap Year Resources:
Year Out Group:
(www.yearoutgroup.org) – One-stop shopping for domestic and international volunteer and service programs. The organizations are organized by location and specialty and the site offers information on a wide range of topics including insurance and health updates, testimonials from participants, and planning and application advice.