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A gap year is a period of time when students take a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, intern, or work. A gap year is also referred to as a deferred year, year out, year off, time out, time off. A gap year experience can last for several weeks, a semester, or up to a year or more. Typically a gap year is taken between high school graduation and starting college, during college, or between college and starting graduate school or a career.  (planetgapyear.com)

Step 1: Is a Gap Year Right for Me:  'Gap Year' before college gives grads valuable life experience100 Tips, Tools, & Guides for taking a Gap Year Before CollegeWhy take a Gap Year, Why Black Youth Must Travel, Recommended Gap Year Reads, and Dear High School Students: Take a Gap Year are some articles to help you get started in making that decision.
Step 2: Set Goals:  What do you want to accomplish? What skills will you gain?
Step 3: Set a Time Frame:  How long will you be away?  When can you leave, and when do you need to return?
Step 4: Do Your Research:  Where do you want to go?  Will you travel, work, volunteer, learn a language, or a combination of these?  Will you travel alone or with others?  Will you go through a program like LEAPNOW or GoAbroad or create your own trip? Will you need to learn another language before you go?  Seek out people on travel blogs and messageboards, in your school, at a Gap Year Fair, or through an organization to find out how they set up their gap year.
Step 5: Funding:  How will you raise the money?  Do you have enough money to pay for the experience you would like to have?  Start saving now and consider working during your trip to help fund it.  Anywork Anywhere and Jobs Abroad Bulletin can help you start your job search.
Step 6: Travel Documents:  Will you need a passport and/or Visas? Documentation can take a number of weeks, sometimes months to complete.  Get started on applying for passports, visas and other documentation asap.
Step 7: Immunizations:  What Immunizations are required?  Are there multiple vaccinations in a series that you will need to space out over a period of time.  Similar to securing travel documents, get started asap.
Step 8: Travel Insurance:  Does your insurance cover the length of your trip? Do you plan to do sports or extreme activities and does your insurance cover this?
Step 9: Make Plans for Your Return:  It is HIGHLY recommended that you apply to college and defer for your gap year rather than applying when you return. Read Should My Student Consider Deferring Enrollment for College? to help make that decision.