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Cornell University

Gap or "Bridge" Year

  • Feel like you need time to figure out what your professional goals are?
  • Need to gain some experience to enhance your application to graduate or professional school?
  • Want to do community service or take time to travel?
  • Just need a break to do something different and pay off some loans?
  • If any of these sound like you, consider a gap year!

What is a "Gap" Year?

A gap year, as it is commonly known, refers to a one-year period after graduation where someone explores career options, prepares for another degree by developing additional skills and/or paying off some student loans, or takes some time to travel. We prefer to call these Bridge Experiences, because a bridge represents a more intentional connection between two points—where you are now, and your next goal. They can last 1-3 years.

Factors to Consider

  • What is your goal for this time period?
  • What is interesting and relevant to your goal?
    • Ex: Will you gain more career-related knowledge through a longer-term opportunity or through two or more shorter-term situations?
  • Would you rather spend time alone, craft your own experience, or participate in a well-established program?
  • What is financially practical? Keep loans and other bills in mind.
    • Ex: If you participate in an internship or volunteer, you may need an additional part-time job to support yourself.
  • What obligations do you need to keep in mind? (family, financial, health, etc.)
  • Do you have geographic preferences?
  • How long are you willing to commit?
    • Ex: If a position includes a 6-month training program and you only planning to work a year, then this is not an appropriate position.
  • Do you need healthcare and benefits?
  • Are there professional development opportunities built into the program? Be prepared to respond to an interviewer’s question about your long-term career goals and how the position would fit in.

There are many gap/bridge options for you to consider. You can teach in private schools and some public schools, conduct scientific or social sciences research, serve in domestic and international volunteer programs, or pursue a variety of fellowships. As long as you are choosing a role that meets your goals, you can really apply for any open entry-level position for your gap year—it doesn’t have to a special program or labeled as a “gap year experience”. If you are looking for pre-med or pre-dental gap year advice, visit Bridge Year(s).

Common Gap Year Positions

Below are tips to get you started in identifying and applying for several short-term positions frequently pursued by Cornell grads.

  • Service Programs. There are many reputable programs focused on service domestically and abroad. You’ve likely heard of AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, and there are many others. Call +1 (607) 255-5296 to make an appointment with the Gap Year Advisor and discuss whether these or other service opportunities might be a good fit for you.
  • Options in Research. Many entry-level positions exist in a variety of research environments.
  • Paralegal Employment. There is high demand for paralegals, and no previous training nor certification is typically required.
  • Teaching Positions. Many teaching options are available to grads, even if they don’t have certification.
  • Working Abroad. See International Opportunities to help you find positions abroad.

Resource Library

Gap or Bridge Year Resources

Our Resource Library contains links to many resources that will help you in your search for gap or bridge year opportunities.