Gap year: What parents need to know

July 26, 2017

High school graduation is nearly here, which means families with students entering their senior year need to start thinking about what their student will do after graduation.  One often overlooked option is having the student attend a gap year program before entering college.

HFG Wealth Management Director of Client Services and Financial Planning, Donnie Carpenter, answers the top three questions about gap year programs.

What is a gap year program?
Gap year programs have been growing in popularity for some time, but the concept has almost always been around. The idea is that most students have no idea what career they want to enter on the other side of school, and thus what they should study. Instead of going from high school straight into college, they can get some experience that will help them understand more about themselves and what careers may be a good fit.

Some students do this by getting a job and staying at home, building up their savings and learning if a retail or service job is where they want to land. Other students attend a local community college to explore different fields at a fraction of the cost of a four-year college, but most community colleges have far fewer fields of study than traditional universities. Still other students may want to join the army, Greenpeace, a mission agency, or take some other opportunity to travel and gain life experience.

A relatively new option is to attend a gap year program. There are generally three types: traveling, volunteering, and working.

Why should we consider a gap year program?
Many 18-year-olds are not ready to decide what they want to do with the rest of their life. A gap year program gives them time and space to consider their options, as well as obtain experiences that may help shape their future career.

For example, a client’s son was interested in doing something involving the ocean, so his parents sent him on a gap year program that had him spending a semester at sea. He is now an oceanographer, having found a career he is passionate about, while his wife, whom he met on the ship, became a school teacher after learning she wasn’t as interested in the sea as she thought.

Is there a cost to gap year programs, and if so, how do we pay for it?
Gap year programs are businesses that sell education and experiences, so there is a cost involved. It can run from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. One program involves traveling to multiple countries over 9 months and costs $55,000, while another has the student live 20 days at sea for 3 credit hours and costs $6,000. Depending on the type of program, you may be able to use financial aid, or even your 529 account to pay for the gap year. To be eligible for financial aid or to get tax-free withdrawals from your 529, a program must be affiliated with a university.

At HFG Wealth Management, we embrace a holistic method of financial planning known as Financial Life Planning™. We believe this is a financially effective and personally rewarding approach to creating a practical, lasting financial plan. As financial professionals using the life planning approach, our purpose is to assist individuals and families in creating a long-term vision that is consistent with their core values. At HFG we recognize that life events and life transitions can impact your financial responsibilities and your vision of the future. We are here to provide you with tips and strategies to get you started and help you reach your financial and life goals at every stage.

For more information, please visit or call 832.585.0110.



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