Want or need to take a year or two off before applying to graduate/professional school? Do you need a break to figure things out before continuing your undergraduate education? Use this time strategically and productively! Build skills and gain experience to improve your candidacy by considering options of interest listed below.
Check out fellowships, service programs, job/internship resources, international opportunities, and healthcare/medical options that fit your interests. Meet with a career coach to discuss what to look for in a gap year opportunity and how this might help you build skills for your candidacy for future full-time employment or graduate/professional school admission. Need help with this? Schedule an appointment with a Career Coach or use the Planning a Gap Year Experience section below.
How-To Guide: Planning a Gap Year Experience
Reflect upon and respond to the following questions. Answering these questions will help you prioritize and set goals for your gap year experience, making it easier to narrow options.
Interests & Experiences
- What kinds of work, volunteer, student leadership or other experiences have you had during college?
- Are you lacking any skills or experiences to date that would make you a viable candidate for graduate/professional school programs of interest? Consider the following areas:
- Research Experience
- Job Shadowing
- Volunteer Experience
- Internship/Work Experience
- What could you do during a gap year that would make your grad school application stand out more?
- What do you enjoy doing in your free time (e.g. hobbies, etc.)?
- Is there a language that you would like to focus on during your gap year experience? If so, which one and in what countries is it spoken?
- Do you want to give back to your community during a gap year experience? If so, what areas interest you most (e.g. poverty, human rights, educational equality, disaster relief, environment/sustainability, health, etc.)?
- Do you want to travel or live in a specific/different location during your gap year? If so, list regions/cities in the United States or international countries/regions that are of most interest to you.
- If you could do anything, what would you do during your gap year?
Timeline & Budget
- When would you like to begin your gap time, and how long would you like it to last?
- How much salary/stipend would you need to live during your gap year? Do you need health insurance or other benefits? (NOTE: May need to research cost of living for areas of interest then develop a budget for living expenses as well as any student debt. Some programs allow you to delay college loan debt repayment or help with college loans.)
- Do you have any savings to help cover the cost of a gap year experience?
- Do you need to focus on programs that offer student load postponement, forbearance, or repayment of your loans?
Prioritize 2-3 things you’d like to gain from a gap year experience.
Step 1: Write down your goal in as few words as possible.
Step 2: Make your goal detailed and SPECIFIC. Answer who/what/where/how/when. HOW will you reach this goal?
List at least 3 specific action steps you'll take.
Step 3: Make your goal is MEASURABLE. Add details, measurements and tracking methods.
Examples: I will track my progress by using the chart; I will know I've reached my goal when I have applied to 3 programs.
Step 4: Make your goal ATTAINABLE. What additional resources do you need for success?
- Items needed to achieve this goal.
- How you'll find the time.
- Things you need to learn more about.
- People you can talk to for support.
Step 5: Make your goal RELEVANT. List why you want to reach this goal.
Step 6: Make your goal TIMELY.
Put a deadline on your goal and set dates for benchmark items.
Examples: I will reach my goal by X/XX/20XX
My part-way measurement will be to have an application essay looked at on w XX/XX/20XX
List additional dates and milestones you'll aim for in your calendar.
Need further help with this? Schedule an Appointment With a Career Coach
Fellowships are structured 1-2 year postgraduate experiences that may fund research, professional work, projects, or teaching in the U.S. or abroad. In addition to those listed below, students can search on the database of professional and academic fellowships at Profellow.com. The University of Iowa also has a Director of Scholar Development who will advise you on applications for some national fellowships.
AJC Goldman Fellows shape future leaders in summer internships in politics, diplomacy, public relations, and management. This program open to undergraduates and graduate school students offers opportunities for students to work with a mentor on projects in domestic and foreign offices.
The American Prospect’s Writing Fellows Program offers journalists at the beginning of their careers the opportunity to spend two full years at the magazine in Washington, D.C., developing their journalistic skills. Each fellow benefits from an intensive mentoring program and is expected to contribute regularly to the website and to the print edition.
The APAICS Congressional Fellowship Program offers full-time legislative and public policy fellowships in Washington, DC, providing exceptional graduates and young professionals with an opportunity to work on policy issues as staff members in a congressional office. The program aims to build leadership skills, encourage political civic engagement, and foster a strong interest in public service careers.
Atlantic Media Fellowship Program offers high-achieving recent college graduates a structured, year-long paid fellowship for those committed to editorial-side or business-side careers in media. Opportunities start in January and July.
These programs, known collectively as the Capital Fellows Programs, are nationally recognized. The 18 Assembly Fellows, 18 Senate Fellows, 18 Executive Fellows and 10 Judicial Administration Fellows receive an outstanding opportunity to engage in public service and prepare for future careers, while actively contributing to the development and implementation of public policy in California. The ranks of former fellows include a Justice of the California Supreme Court, members of the United States Congress and the State Legislature, a deputy director of the Peace Corps, state and local government officials, corporate executives and community leaders.
Junior Fellows have the opportunity to conduct research for books, co-author journal articles and policy papers, participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony, and organize briefings attended by scholars, journalists, and government officials. Interested Iowa students should contact the Honors program.
Post-baccalaureate Fellows are placed in different programs and departments at the Foundation. Through work supervised by an assigned mentor, fellows gain a range of professional skills in research, communication, group facilitation, teamwork, project management, writing, and leadership. Compensation and benefits included.
Coro introduces program participants to all aspects of the public affairs arena, preparing them to translate their ideals into action for improving their own communities and beyond. Coro Fellows learn to see the big picture - the community as a whole - and appreciate the varying perspectives that characterize our cities, states, and nation.
Three distinct fellowships providing seed funding for social entrepreneurs. Focus includes solutions for communities, improving the life outcomes for black men and boys, and the mitigation and adaptation of climate change. Fellowships include an $80,000 stipend over the course of 2 years, health insurance & professional development stipends, leadership & networking events, and technical support for projects.
This program seeks individuals to help shape them into social justice leaders by focusing on fighting hunger and poverty in our country. During the duration of the fellowship, the program will provide no less than a $32,000 salary.
Policy fellows participate in leadership activities, skill building workshops, and networking as well as working with a focus area of health, economic equity, environmental equity, diversity & inclusion, or telecommunications and how the area effects equity and justice for communities of color. Fellows are paid and health benefits are included.
The program consists of two 12-month rotations at top metro papers and websites. Fellows are full-fledged journalists expected to make significant, valuable contributions in a variety of roles and platforms.
The Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship is a national fellowship program that chooses a group of individuals to work in Washington, DC for 6 to 9 months. During this time, individuals will work with organizations addressing peace and security issues while earning a salary and a professional development stipend.
The Humanity in Action Fellowship brings together international Fellows to study minority rights and produce research on diversity and democracy.
The Autry Fellowship provides an opportunity for talented and passionate recent college graduates to work for one year to address pressing issues of inequity in the South as a full-time, paid staff member at MDC.
The Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellows contribute to a variety of research projects to inform policies affecting women. Research activities may include reviewing literature; collecting, checking and analyzing data; gathering information; and preparing reports and report graphics. Attending relevant Congressional briefings, policy seminars and meetings is also a component of the fellowship program. Applicants should have at least a bachelor's degree in a social science discipline (such as sociology, psychology, education, or public policy), statistics, economics, mathematics or women's studies.
The Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program offers a 6-month crash course in investigative journalism. Fellowships, including Editorial, Online Editorial, Social Media, Digital Media, and Strategic Communications, are full-time positions paid by monthly stipend with the opportunity to extend the position for an additional six months.
The Tim Russert Fellowship is a one-year paid position in the NBC News Washington DC Bureau where one Fellow works in several areas including “Meet the Press” and the NBC News Political Unit. The goal is to give a talented young journalist the opportunity to be mentored by seasoned NBC News staff members and experience a year-long “boot camp” in political journalism.
The Urban Fellows Program is a highly selective, nine-month fellowship which combines work in Mayoral offices and City agencies with volunteer service opportunities and a seminar series that explores current urban issues impacting public policy. Program participants are diverse and come from all over the country to work in New York City. The Fellows’ work experience is supplemented by the seminar series, a unique learning experience that exposes Fellows to public and private sector leaders.
The purpose of the Program is to attract to the Federal service outstanding men and women from a variety of academic disciplines and career paths who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, excellence in the leadership and management of public policies and programs.
The Samuel Huntington Public Service Award provides $15,000 stipend to a graduating senior to complete a public service project anywhere in the world for 1 year.
Young Invincibles has an advocate program that will provide young adults with the opportunity to learn a range of skills from policy research, organizing and advocacy, to communications strategies, to business skills. Locations in various cities. Application deadlines vary.
Service programs allow for lending skills and talents to engage in the mitigation of societal issues. The individual programs below link directly to program sites, and serviceyear.org is an easy way to search between multiple Americorps positions and other service fellowships at non-profit organizations.
Service Program resources
The largest of AmeriCorps programs, AmeriCorps State and National provides funds to local and national organizations and agencies committed to using national service to address critical community needs in education, public safety, health and the environment. Members serve full- or part-time over a 9- to 12-month period.
AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18–24. Members live on one of five campuses, located in Denver, Colorado; Sacramento, California; Perry Point, Maryland; Vicksburg, MS; and Vinton, Iowa. AmeriCorps NCCC requires an intensive, 10-month commitment.
FEMA Corps is a full-time, 10 month program for American citizens who are 18-24 years old. Members focus solely on administrative and logistical support on emergency management and recovering. Projects type, length, and location are disaster-dependent.
AmeriCorps VISTA is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, strengthen community groups, and much more.
The Blueprint Fellows Program is designed to accelerate student achievement in schools across the country. Fellows provide daily, small group tutoring sessions to students across grades K-12. Fellows are fully integrated into their school cultures and are invited to collaborate with school staff, attend all staff meetings and professional development opportunities, communicate with students’ families, and coordinate school-wide service projects.
Change Corps is a 1 year paid program where members receive training on grassroots organizing and then support in connecting with full-time employers.
The Citizen Schools National Teaching Fellowship is a service program offering a two-year, leadership development experience, including service as a team leader at a Citizen Schools campus, professional development with a partner organization in the community, and the opportunity for optional enrollment in a Master's program.
City Year corps members serve full-time as tutors and mentors in schools, running after-school programs, leading and developing youth leadership programs, and vacation camps to make a difference in the lives of children and their communities.
Green Corps is a 1 year paid program where members receive training on grassroots environmental organizing and then support in connecting with full-time employers such as Sierra Club, 350.org, U.S. PIRG, etc.
Corps members participate in life-changing service, living and working with those in need to build a more just and hopeful world. Members have a chance to serve within 37 cities in the USA and 6 countries. Basic needs are covered by the program as well as a small personal stipend.
Volunteers live in an intentional community exploring spirituality and sustainability while working for social justice in schools or non-profit organizations on various topics including youth development, medical and legal access, refugee services, senior services, food access, and public policy. Interns are paid by stipend and are granted at least 2 weeks of vacation by their host site. Only a third of the volunteers are Lutheran.
Teach For America aims to end educational inequity. TFA corps members serve in high-need schools for two-year commitments as classroom teachers.
Thinking about gaining experience in the workforce post-graduation? Jobs or internships could be ways of solidifying and exploring options in ways that don’t have to hold as much permanence as traditionally thought.
CoolWorks is for finding a seasonal job or career in some of the greatest places on Earth. Learn about jobs in national parks, campus, ski resorts, ranches, theme parks, tour companies and more.
CFR Research associates and program assistants will have the chance to hear from experts, including scholars, government officials, corporate executives, top journalists, and young, upcoming leaders, on the most important foreign-policy issues of our time. CFR also offers opportunities to further professional development through a lunch speaker series, a Professional Development training program, a tuition reimbursement policy, and free CFR publications.
Idealist is a resource for nonprofit jobs, internships, fellowships, and volunteer opportunities.
Iowa Lakeside Laboratory offers environmental education and science writing internships for college level students or recent graduates with majors in Biology, Environmental Science, Education or a related course of study. The position runs through the summer with an opportunity to live on the 140-acre lakeside campus and nature preserve interacting with researchers, scientists, teachers and artists-in-residence. Applications typically open in January.
The insider’s guide to unique and exciting entry-level job and career opportunities for recent college graduates. The daily employer profiles highlight the best entry-level jobs and offer innovative job search tips. Sister-site One Day, One Internship is the insider’s guide to unique and exciting internship opportunities for college students.
Interns contribute to the Partnership's mission while developing valuable professional skills. Responsibilities vary but often include event planning & execution, research, writing, and outreach to external partners, including federal agencies and higher education. The program incorporates opportunities for professional and personal growth through workshops and trainings.
There are over 60 internship programs available at the Smithsonian offering a myriad of new experiences. Each museum and office manages their own programs and has their own intern coordinator.
The STEM Undergrads site is a database that includes research and non-research internships and fellowships with the US Federal Government.
Work for WOOF as an ambassador or volunteer on organic farms in the U.S. and around the world.
If you are looking to explore the world a little more before obtaining another degree, consider applying for internship or service-learning programs abroad.
The Fellowship provides individuals with a chance to contribute to the strengthening of the public sector abroad by serving in professional placements within foreign government ministries while simultaneously carrying out an academic research project. For more information or to gain support for applications for the many other types of Fulbright programs, connect with UI's Associate Director of International Fellowships.
This list of short-term fellowships includes opportunities for citizens of any country and discipline to go abroad. These fellowships include research and leadership development opportunities as well as positions at private and public organizations and NGOs.
This 2 year international fellowship develops leaders dedicated to solving food insecurity. In addition to benefits and a living stipend, fellows receive training and work in the field in host organizations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia and then spend a year on policy projects.
Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment to work abroad choosing from many different countries. Volunteers will be provided living expenses, benefits, and a stipend at the end of service. Volunteers have many different projects and countries to select from.
Princeton in Asia (PIA) is a group that allows college graduates to understand the ties between the east and the west by living and working in Asian countries. Individuals will be supported by the program and can apply for year-long fellowships in teaching, NGO’s, business, and community development.
This UI site includes reputable internship, service learning, and teach abroad programs.
American Indian Foundation (AIF) is a service program working towards meeting India’s goals for sustainable development. If selected, you will work with leading NGOs and social enterprises in India in order to create effective projects. AIF provides travel expenses, insurance coverage, and a monthly stipend.
Medical Fellowships are structured 1-2 year post-graduate experiences that may fund research, professional work, projects, or teaching in the U.S. or abroad.
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Global Health Corps is a non-profit organization committed to health equity. GHC pairs talented young professionals from the United States and abroad, from a variety of backgrounds, to work in year-long fellowships with organizations serving poor communities in the United States and various countries in Africa.
The OMHHE supports training opportunities for qualified students at all levels of their education. Many of the opportunities involve working with the Federal Government or the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Villers Fellows work on Medicaid and enrollment policy issues and develop an understanding of the federal legislative and regulatory process. They will also be exposed to different advocacy strategies.
Wellstone Fellows for Social Justice conduct health care advocacy with a focus on the challenges facing low-income and minority communities as part of Families USA. Primary responsibilities include performing health policy research and developing content that promotes the reduction and elimination of disparities in healthcare. One fellow is selected each year. Salary and health care benefits are included.
Project Horseshoe Farm Fellows participate in a paid, intensive community-based service & leadership development gap year. A good fit for students interested in community health and education, leadership, social entrepreneurship, and community service. Fellows have a high level of responsibility participating in both direct-service and leadership. Many go on to medical school, nursing, and public health graduate programs.
A good way to get involved with research is to network with current and past professors or to get in touch with faculty members within various academic departments. There may be opportunities here at the University of Iowa or the departments may know of grant money available for temporary research positions in your field after graduation.
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The GREAT Group is an AAMC Group established quality education in the biomedical sciences. They have a link to Summer Undergraduate Research Programs (by school) at their website.
This website lists summer programs (by state) related to medicine, dentistry, and public health.
This website from Swarthmore College provides a list of links to summer research programs available to undergraduates and recent graduates in the U.S.
MCORRP offers internships across the country. Researchers engage in studies including common cardiovascular conditions and procedures among large populations; develop modern mathematical tools to assess risk and outcomes; promote evidence-based care models which incorporate best science into care itself by targeting physicians, nurses, and patients.
NARAP is a consortium of emergency departments and colleges joined to generate research and quality improvement projects utilizing Research Associates (RAs) to enroll large numbers of participants over short time frames. RAs are pre-health professional college and post-baccalaureate students who volunteer in the emergency department enrolling participants in clinical research and providing service based on that research.
The NIH provides a plethora of opportunities for students at all levels. Opportunities include programs for those still in school and for those who have graduated.
At Wayne State University, you can expand your research skills at one of the largest medical centers in the world. Summer fellowships are available in molecular biology and biochemistry.
The Post-Bachelor Fellowship is a structured health research program. This fellowship provides a unique opportunity for recent college graduates with strong quantitative skills to train with faculty and senior researchers on a variety of public health projects. Salary and benefits provided.
If you want more experience working in the health or medical sector, consider applying for a job or internship. These could help you solidify or explore options without necessarily making a permanent commitment.
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The American Public Health Association is the oldest, largest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world and has been working to improve public health since 1872. A variety of internships for undergrad and grad students are available.
Dr. Scott Morris founded the Church Health Center in 1987 to provide quality, affordable healthcare for working, uninsured people and their families. Over the years, Dr. Morris has hired pre-medical students in their gap year to intern in what has become the country’s largest faith-based clinic.
The VA’s goal is to provide excellent service to over 25 million veterans in patient care and veterans’ benefits. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer or be employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs in the health care setting or in other settings relating to the care of veterans.
With offices in Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, and California, and partnerships with hospital systems in various states, Elite Medical Scribes is a great opportunity for pre-med students. Scribes work side-by-side with physicians throughout their entire shift and have the opportunity to observe how the physician interacts with patients.
HealthCorps is a comprehensive health education program founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz. HealthCorps Coordinators commit to two years of service to work full-time in a designated high school and community.
Health eCareers is a healthcare job board that adds new postings from over 6,500 employers every day.
List of internship postings compiled by Rochester Institute of Technology for pre-medical students.
LiveWell is a program at the University of Iowa that has internship possibilities in the areas of health education, weight management, employee wellness, health coaching and marketing.
Job posting site in the biotechnology, medicine and health care industries. Extensive list of related links also available.
Pfizer, the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company offers several laboratory internships in locations across the globe. Applications open in January.
Job descriptions of Planned Parenthood Clinic Assistants vary depending on location, but generally the position involves clerical duties, basic patient care, or both. Internships are also available with many focusing on education and outreach.
Health/Medical Experiences Abroad
Health/Medical Experiences Abroad
For the experiences in medical settings abroad, watch out for positions or duties that you would typically need a license for in the U.S. Accepting a non-licensed duties could jeopardize future licensed employment in the U.S. For health related positions, we strongly encourage students to complete Global Ambassador for Patient Safety training in order to protect yourself and your patients and read the AAMC's Guidelines for Clinical Experiences Abroad. If you have questions about an opportunity, you can always discuss it with your advisor and the Office of Study Abroad.
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American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad, Inc. (AYUDA) is a grassroots organization seeking volunteers who are dedicated, hard working and self-motivated. The volunteers will experience how a small non-profit organization works from the everyday operations to the delivery of essential medical support and resources to Latin America on 10 day or 3 week service trips.
ChildVoice International is quickly expanding in northern Uganda. Opportunities include, but are not limited to, adult and child education, psycho-social rehabilitation, community health, spiritual leadership and development, income generating projects, micro finance, art, physical and occupational therapy, administrative and organizational tasks, and agriculture.
Health Education & Advocacy Liaisons (HEAL) internships give undergraduate and medical students the chance to work with physicians at the Roatan Volunteer Pediatric Clinic (RVPC) in Honduras.
Go Abroad has various volunteer and internships programs to help you gain experience and put your knowledge to use in health fields with international communities in need.