Your Complete Guide to EF Gap Year Programs


Jan 3, 2022
What's a Gap Year Your Guide to EF Gap Year Programs

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Should you take time off before starting college? Half of all college students enter not feeling prepared for classes even though most students worked hard to be there. College is a new environment, testing even the most mature students. Those who feel academically burnt out upon entering university struggle to adjust to the rigor of new classes, let alone the strain of being away from emotional supports they’ve depended on their entire lives. 

Gap years can help equip students with critical skills for success in college. They provide a chance for you to take a step back, catch your breath academically, and decide what it is that fuels your passions. A gap year can be a crucial determining factor in helping you understand what major you want to pursue or what career path you want to follow upon graduation.

In a study conducted by Middlebury College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the researchers found that students who took time to complete gap year programs had more successful college experiences. On average, the student’s GPAs were higher by .1 to .4 points. The research also found that the students who completed gap years were more likely to graduate from college in four years, unlike their peers who graduated on average in six years.

What Makes the EF Gap Year Unique?

The Education First (EF) Gap Year programs are unique because they offer a high level of customizability. Other programs can’t compete with the variety of modules, different program lengths, or several language offerings.

History & Background

EF Gap Year has been in operation since 1965, sending millions of students worldwide to have life-altering experiences. Worldwide, the company has over 50,000 staff members and 600 partnering schools and offices. Because of this impressive network, EF Gap Year offers unparalleled customer support to students and their families.  

Mission & Philosophy

While your academic successes in high school might have prepared you for the rigor of college, you might feel less than ready for some of the decisions that accompany independent living. EF Gap Year organically provides experiences for you to learn the core skills of adulthood, like becoming an open-minded individual, testing your boundaries, and embracing your independence.

The EF Gap Year believes in four crucial skills for student success in the program:

  1. Growth Mindset: the understanding that your skills can be improved with hard work and input from others.
  1. Global Perspective: the mindset in which you see others and understand your relationship in the larger world.
  1. Personal Development: a lifelong process to improve one’s skills and mature into a more well-rounded individual.
  1. Action: taking a step to make a difference in the world around you.

The EF Gap Year Programs

Once you’ve decided to take a gap year between graduation and starting college, you need to consider the best EF Gap Year program for your needs. All options are highly customizable, based on whatever you hope to accomplish during your time abroad.  

Short Term Programs

If you’re looking for a quick trip abroad, spent over the summer or during the school year, the Short Term Program might be a perfect fit for you.

Impact Programs

Four Weeks

The Impact Programs are all about service learning and gaining hands-on experience. Learn about the importance of social responsibility in business practice while collaborating with real organizations abroad. While the program locations often change, the Impact Program frequently visits Costa Rica.

Compass Programs

Six Weeks

Through the Compass Programs, you’ll have the opportunity to gain language skills, travel, and embrace your independence. The programs offer structured activities and freedom to explore your new environment. Some common program locations include Barcelona, Rome, and Tokyo.

Gap Semester Programs

Each Semester Program is 12 weeks long and begins with a two-week trip visiting some of the most famous European destinations, including – London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam.

The Adventurer

Costa Rica & Peru

The Adventure Program combines Spanish language learning with an emphasis on service learning. If you’re passionate about the outdoors and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this is the program for you.

The Discoverer

Europe, customizable

If you want to dive into language learning, this is likely the perfect option for you. Depending on what language you’d like to immerse yourself in, you’ll head to a specific city. You’ll learn Spanish in Barcelona, French in Nice, Italian in Barcelona, and German in Berlin. Additionally, you can complete an internship in Seville or Dublin.

The Explorer

Europe & Thailand

Pick this option if you’re passionate about service learning and cultural immersion.  During your time in the Explorer Program, you’ll spend four weeks immersing yourself in learning a language in a European city of your choice. The next four weeks you’ll spend exploring Thailand’s sustainable development goals and completing service-learning projects.

The Globetrotter

Thailand & Australia

This is a fantastic opportunity for students to combine service learning in Thailand and a professional internship in Sydney, Australia. There are so many benefits to completing an international internship. Immerse yourself in the culture and get a better sense of your global perspective.

The Voyager

Thailand & Tokyo

Combine service learning in Thailand with immersive language learning in Tokyo to make this an unforgettable experience. Perfect for students who want to expand their horizons and want to experience Asian culture first hand.

Gap Year Programs

Spend an entire year in another country cultivating a global perspective, embracing independence, learning life skills, and self-awareness. One of the most customizable programs of EF Gap Year line up, you can choose from 19 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceana, and South America.


First, select the country you would most like to immerse yourself in their culture. There are three different modules you can choose from in the EF Gap Year – Service Learning, Language Learning, and an Internship. Determine which is the best fit for your interests and passions.


  • Tanzania: Service Learning


  • Seoul, South Korea: Language Learning
  • Shanghai, China: Language Learning
  • Thailand: Service Learning
  • Tokyo, Japan: Internship, Language Learning


  • Barcelona, Spain: Language Learning
  • Berlin, Germany: Internship, Language Learning
  • Dublin, Ireland: Internship
  • Madrid, Spain: Language Learning
  • Malaga, Spain: Language Learning
  • Nice, France: Language Learning
  • Paris, France: Language Learning
  • Rome, Italy: Language Learning
  • Stockholm, Sweden: Internship

Latin America

  • Costa Rica: Service Learning
  • Tamarindo, Costa Rico: Language Learning
  • Dominica Republic: Service Learning


  • Sydney, Australia: Internship

South America

  • Peru: Service Learning

Is a Gap Year Right for You?

If you’re feeling academically burnt out or uncertain about what you should study, perhaps you should consider taking a gap year before starting your college career. Gap years can provide a time for reflection and an opportunity for self-growth and embracing your independence. Talk with your parents about the possibilities of taking a gap year or even a gap semester.

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