About Global Citizen Year
Many people think a gap year is a privilege for wealthy kids. Others think a gap year program is a remedial option for kids who are “off-track”. Our mission is to reframe the traditional gap year as a Bridge Year. With Global Citizen Year you aren’t falling into a ‘gap’; instead you are crossing the bridge that will launch you from one life stage to the next. Let’s stop calling it a gap year; and start calling it a bridge year.
The Global Citizen Year Fellowship takes place between August and May of each year. While specific dates are subject to change with every program cycle, below is an example of the year’s breakdown:
- Summer after senior year: Summer Campaign and Onboarding
- Mid-August: 10 day Pre-Departure Training in California.
- September through early October: 5 weeks In-Country Training held in the host countries.
- October through April: In-country homestays and apprenticeships. During this time, Fellows will also convene regularly with their country cohort for Training Seminars.
- April: 5 day Re-Entry Training in the Bay Area, CA.
- End of April and Onward: Spring Events and transition to college.
Global Citizen Year is uniquely designed to bridge the high school and college experience through a combination of immersive learning and world-class training in areas directly relevant to the higher education environment. Focusing on three main learning spheres - Entrepreneurial Leadership, Global Skills, and College and Career Readiness – we:
- Implement a unique and rigorous curriculum designed to help students prepare academically for college, including a two-week pre-departure training, ongoing training blocks, and a one-week re-entry training to tie together the year’s learning.
- Train our Fellows on Stanford’s campus with world-class faculty and speakers, exposing them to the college setting and intellectual rigor they will face in their higher education.
- Ensure all Fellows develop intentional learning plans both for their year abroad and for their college experience allowing them to test their interests and define their passions both as Fellows and college students.
Recognizing the tremendous positive impact a structured global bridge year can have on a student, Dickinson College has partnered with Global Citizen Year to provide an innovative approach to college affordability.
Through this partnership, Fellows who complete a Global Citizen Year prior to matriculating at Dickinson will be eligible for up to $10,000 in tuition credits through the school’s unique Public Service Fellows program. Public Service Fellows also receive priority consideration for positions as resident advisors, community advisors, and other opportunities to further reduce tuition and fees.
To participate in this program, applicants must be granted admission to both Dickinson College and Global Citizen Year. They must also be admitted to Dickinson’s Public Service Fellowship program. To learn more about this opportunity, click here.
Although bridge year opportunities become more plentiful each year, Global Citizen Year stands apart for a number of reasons. Among these are our unmatched focus on the growth and personal development of each Fellow as well as our steadfast commitment to building a broader movement – and a powerful national corps of future leaders from diverse and varied backgrounds.
UNIQUE PROGRAM CYCLE
One of the hallmarks of a Global Citizen Year is the unique emphasis on Fellows’ learning and growth that underlies the ongoing training curriculum. Fellows will receive intensive and comprehensive training before traveling, once they arrive in country, and throughout the course of their apprenticeships and homestays.
Unlike traditional, short-term volunteer placements, Fellows will instead work in partnership with communities through a local apprenticeship. By living in a community for an extended period of time and working alongside local people, Fellows have the unique opportunity to learn a language, form lasting relationships, and gain firsthand insight into the issues that shape their hosts’ lives.
Throughout their apprenticeships, Fellows will receive support on the ground from their in-country staff and their cohort of Fellows. Carefully selected homestay families and local partners will also be guides and resources. On top of regular visits from their in-country staff, each month Fellows will gather together with staff to participate in on-going training seminars. These monthly seminars are designed to compliment, support, and amplify their learning in the field while also providing invaluable time for their country cohort to come together to process their experience.
- Connect & Lead
As Fellows near the end of their Global Citizen Year, they will move into a Capstone Stage characterized by reflection, analysis, and outward expressions of their learning and growth. The Capstone Stage allows Fellows to share their experience with diverse groups, instilling in their audiences the power of global citizenship.
Once Fellows return home, they will join the dynamic Global Citizen Year alumni network. This community will provide them with support and resources throughout college and into careers.
Global Citizen Year is committed to ensuring that the program is accessible to all prospective Fellows, regardless of their ability to pay, and secures generous philanthropic contributions to cover the costs of students who would not otherwise be able to participate. To date, over 80% of our Fellows have benefitted from some level of financial assistance, including a third who have received fully funded Fellowships.
All program fees for Global Citizen Year are determined on a sliding scale based on the ability of the Fellow and the Fellow’s family to contribute, and are capped at a tuition ceiling (see Costs and Funding for most recent figures). The tuition ceiling represents a percentage of the total operational cost of supporting each Fellow through the 10-month program; the remainder of this cost is borne by Global Citizen Year with backing from generous foundation and individual donors. This sliding scale model is designed to ensure that Global Citizen Year remains accessible to all selected Fellows, regardless of their financial circumstances, and that any available aid be allocated to participants for whom the experience would not otherwise be possible.
To date, over 80% of our Fellows have taken advantage of our generous financial aid packages, including a third who have received fully funded Fellowships. Aside from tuition, each fellow is responsible for all costs associated with passport and visa applications, vaccinations, or early withdrawal from the program. All other costs, including domestic and international airfare, are assumed by Global Citizen Year.
All Fellows, regardless of their financial aid awards, are required to submit a $500 deposit upon acceptance into the program to be applied towards their total contribution, and are also required to participate in a Summer Campaign in the months preceding their departure. Read more about the Summer Campaign here.
Applying for Aid
To apply for aid, participants must submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to the federal government, which reviews applications and generates a SAR (Student Aid Report) in return. Using this SAR and additional information from parents or guardians (in recognition of the fact that the SAR is not always a comprehensive reflection of a family’s ability to contribute), Global Citizen Year will determine each participant’s financial aid package on a sliding scale and offer a financial aid package to meet the remainder of the program costs. Participants will be notified of financial aid packages before the deadline to commit to the program.
The Global Citizen Year experience includes conditions that will be physically and mentally demanding, requiring Fellows to be in good physical and mental health. All accepted Fellows are responsible for submitting completed health forms, signed by a physician and/or mental health professional, that completely and accurately represent the current physical and mental well-being of the Fellow. If you have any doubts as to your ability to pass a medical screening for physical and mental well-being, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, all Fellows must provide proof of their own primary health insurance. Global Citizen Year offers a comprehensive emergency and evacuation insurance plan which can be used as both primary and secondary coverage in the event that the Fellow does not have adequate primary insurance.
Yes, it is easy to defer a year of college, and we believe it is well worth any effort it takes to do so.
Once you decide you would like to defer, you will often need to submit your reasons for doing so (in writing) to the dean of admission, along with a deposit. If necessary, GCY would be glad to provide a formal letter detailing the program in which you will be participating once you have committed to becoming a Fellow. All of this must be taken care of by your college’s published deadline in order to secure a spot in the following year’s freshman class. Of course, we also advise that you contact your college or university’s admissions office as soon as you can to see if they require any other steps to defer.
To apply for aid, participants must submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to the federal government, which reviews applications and generates a SAR (Student Aid Report) in return. Using this SAR and additional information from parents or guardians (in recognition of the fact that the SAR is not always a comprehensive reflection of a family’s ability to contribute), Global Citizen Year will offer need-based financial aid packages on a sliding scale. Participants will be notified of financial aid packages before the deadline to commit to the program.
Most merit- and need-based financial awards can be deferred, but policies vary among different schools and programs. Please check with the provider of your financial aid package to determine whether your specific aid can be deferred.
Federal and State Financial Aid: If you decide to defer a year of college, you and your family will need to fill out a new FAFSA in the next calendar year in order to receive updated federal and state financial aid packages.
College Financial Aid: For college financial aid, it is best to contact your school’s financial aid office to learn about their specific policies and updated deadlines. If your school asked that you complete a CSS PROFILE last fall, you will need to fill this out once again. The college might ask for an additional form specific to the school, so it is best to see if they would like you to fill this out once more as well.
For the most part, yes. Each year, more and more colleges adopt policies to support the idea of a bridge year. Harvard, Princeton, and MIT are leading the way with formal policies to encourage students to take time off; Yale, Middlebury College, Amherst, Northwestern, UNC, and many others are following suit, noting that students who’ve taken a year outside the classroom return with more focus, maturity, and perspective, all of which make them better prepared to excel academically. A recent study in the Journal of Educational Psychology supported these findings, highlighting increases in motivation and performance among students who had taken a bridge year.
Most colleges allow deferrals through a straightforward and painless process – just ask the admissions office what you need to do, and if you run into any issues, Global Citizen Year staff is here to help.
In the meantime, check out the following articles for a better sense of how colleges feel about the growing bridge year trend.
The first of its kind in the United States, Global Citizen Year’s partnership with the Eugene Lang College at the New School is a bold approach to freshman year: students enroll in the New School but spend their first year as students participating in Global Citizen Year, augmenting their in-country experience with supplemental academic coursework and gaining a full year’s worth of college credit in the process. Students continue on to the New School following their Global Citizen Year with sophomore standing, more prepared than ever to integrate their firsthand learning in the field with their ongoing studies in the classroom.
To participate in this special program, applicants must be selected by both the New School and Global Citizen Year and consent to special terms and conditions. Applicants may apply to Global Citizen Year during the Priority or Regular deadline, but will not be selected for this Fellowship until April.
The FAFSA is a free, government-issued application that all applicants requesting student aid must submit in the both the college and other related application processes. Although Global Citizen Year applicants are not eligible for federal student aid nor can they apply 529 funds specifically towards this program, Global Citizen Year does use information from the FAFSA in making our own financial aid determinations. The FAFSA is therefore a required application component for any student requesting financial assistance from Global Citizen Year.
To apply, families first fill out the FAFSA using the most current tax data available and submit this form to the government for review. A link to the form can be found here and take approximately 2-3 weeks to process. so please take this into account when considering the application deadline. Once your FAFSA has been processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which is essentially an official government confirmation of the financial circumstances you described in your FAFSA.
The most important information on the SAR is the Expected Family Contribution Number (EFC). The EFC is not the amount of money that your family must provide. Rather, you should think of the EFC as an index that colleges use to determine how much financial aid you would need to receive if you were to attend their school. Global Citizen Year uses this report in addition to information on Part 2 of the application as well as information provided during the Parent Conversation to create an aid package that meets your family’s specific financial needs.
Families should note that because Global Citizen Year is not an institution of higher education, we do not have a federal ID number to which the Student Aid Report can be forwarded directly. Families will need to obtain their copy and submit it to Global Citizen Year themselves. When receiving the SAR, families will automatically receive both an electronic copy and a paper copy of the report. These can easily be sent to Global Citizen Year via mail or by attaching an e-copy to Part 2 of the application.
Global Citizen Year is a 10-month program designed specifically for high school graduates who have not yet started college. We require that all Fellows:
- Are 18 years old by the program start date or submit additional parental releases
- Have a high school diploma, IB, or GED by the program start date
- Have not yet started full-time college coursework
- Are US Citizens or legal permanent residents*
- Pass a basic medical screening
- Provide proof of appropriate insurance
- Obtain parent or guardian permission for participation, regardless of age.
*In some cases other citizenship statuses may be considered. Please see our Criteria & Eligibility section for full details.
In the Field
Throughout your apprenticeship, you will receive support on the ground from your in-country staff and your cohort of Fellows. Carefully selected homestay families and project partners will also be guides and resources. On top of regular visits from your in-country staff, three times during the year you will gather with your Fellows and staff to participate in training seminars. These training seminars are designed to compliment, support, and amplify your learning in the field while also providing invaluable time for your country cohort to come together to process your experience.
- All Fellows will be provided with also local cell phones and a basic coverage plan.
- Fellows who do not have access to a laptop or camera will be loaned this hardware for blogging and media storage.
- The Global Citizen Year Fellows Blog will be your primary platform to share your reflections, videos, and photos.
- Your Global Citizen Year training will help you gain the skills to share your stories through media platforms, from your hometown paper to the New York Times.
They can, but we encourage Fellows to cement their college plans before embarking on their Global Citizen Year for a number of reasons. First among them is the difficulty associated with completing and submitting the necessary documents from afar. Due to in-country conditions, including infrastructure challenges like frequent power outages as well as cultural norms like the value of communal time over independent work time, it is much more difficult to apply to college in-country than in the U.S. In addition to logistical challenges, Fellows who need to complete college applications may find it harder to remain fully engaged in their Global Citizen Year experience and successfully complete all program requirements.
That said, if a Fellow does need to apply or re-apply, it is possible. Internet is available during the in-country orientation period and in nearby cyber cafes in most community placements.
Fellows wishing to apply during their Global Citizen Year should ensure that all necessary paperwork (SATs, transcripts, medical forms, recommendations, etc.) is in order before departure for the host country.
Global Citizen Year currently offers opportunities in Senegal, Brazil, and Ecuador through a network of carefully vetted international, national, and local partners in those countries.
Regardless of country placements, a Global Citizen Year begins and ends in the U.S., with the bulk of the experience spent in one of our three host countries. Fellows receive their country assignments after the conclusion of the selection process through an in-depth Placement Process, where they will have a chance to communicate all preferences and requests.
Global Citizen Year applicants apply to join our corps of Fellows and not to a specific field placement. Fellow preferences weigh heavily in placement decisions, but our intimate understanding of the country context and our local partners’ needs require that other factors to be considered as well when making a final placement. Thus, Global Citizen Year will ultimately make the decision on where a Fellow is placed.
Beginning with the Class of 2014, applicants may indicate in their application if they are interested in only one country and this information will be taken into account when making our admissions decisions. Typically, the more flexible an applicant can be the better chance of being accepte, but in some situations these country-specific applications can be accommodated.
In each country, Global Citizen Year staff work with local partners who have a deep knowledge of the families and communities into which Fellows are placed in order to identify, screen, and select host families. After a careful process involving nominations, interviews, and reference checks, we select families who demonstrate both the desire and the ability to provide rich experiences and support for each Fellow for the duration of their stay while also ensuring safe and healthy conditions. These families take the responsibility of caring for another’s child very seriously, and work with Global Citizen Year to ensure that the experience is rewarding for all involved.
Once accepted, Fellows fill out a homestay questionnaire, which we combine with our familiarity of each family to make the best possible match. Host family placements occur in September during In-Country Orientation.
Once accepted, you will work with Global Citizen Year staff to outline your interests, skills, and aspirations for an apprenticeship placement, which will then be determined based on your preferences and our partners’ needs. Apprenticeships range from assisting in public health clinics or hospitals of traditional medicine to learning to monitor the use of efficient cookstoves in rural communities. Whatever your particular placement, the apprenticeship is a rare opportunity to learn firsthand from experts and practitioners, to observe the inner workings of a local organization or community project, and, over time, to participate directly alongside your hosts.
You can expect to be involved in your apprenticeship for at least 20 hours a week, and can complement this time with an independent project or supplemental activity if your apprenticeship offers the time and space to do so.
Multiple Fellows may be placed with the same apprenticeship host; in these cases, they will be assigned to different sectors of the host organization.
Re-Entry and Beyond
As you near the end of your Global Citizen Year, you will move into a Capstone Stage characterized by reflection, analysis, and outward expressions of your learning and growth. The Capstone Stage begins in-country with a final presentation to your host organization and community encapsulating the work you have done and lessons you have learned during your time as an apprentice and member of the community. As part of your Capstone Stage, you will deliver a product or presentation that encapsulates your experience in the field and helps instill the power of global citizenship in your family, friends, and home community.
There are many ways you may choose to share your story once you are back home:
- Presenting at schools
- Organizing community events
- Hosting fundraisers
- Publishing stories through local media outlets
- Creating photos essays
- Producing short films
- You name it!
At the end of your Global Citizen Year, you’ll come back to the states hardly knowing what to expect. Re-entry can be just as disorienting as your first encounter with a foreign culture (thus the term “reverse culture shock”), and it’s important to prepare for this adjustment.
During your final weeks in the field, you will begin to prepare for the challenges and opportunities associated with departing your new community and returning home. Your Re-Entry Transition begins in your final Monthly Seminar and continues with a week of Re-Entry Training in California upon your return, where you will join with your entire cohort and Global Citizen Year staff to lay the foundation for a successful transition home and, before long, to college.