Gap Years and Duke

Explore. Discover. Grow.

Gap Years and Duke

There are few opportunities in life where you can take a meaningful amount of time to pause, reflect, explore, and grow. There are even fewer opportunities where you can do so knowing you have a truly exceptional opportunity waiting for you. A gap year is your opportunity to catch your breath, gain some perspective, make a difference in a community near or far, grow as a person, and be better prepared for all that Duke has to offer.

Quote Created with Sketch.

“My gap year gave me the time to think about where I’m going, but more importantly, to reflect on how I would get there.”

Makee Anderson
Class of 2024

What is a gap year?

We consider a gap year to be a break students can take between high school and enrolling at Duke. The experiences had during this time can take many different forms, but regardless of how you choose to spend it, a gap year can provide many benefits.

Gap years can include:

  • Travel
  • Volunteering and community service
  • Internships or paid work
  • Skill-development
  • Military or religious service
  • And so much more!


Many students consider a gap year as an opportunity to broaden their horizons. Regardless of what you are involved in, you will have the opportunities to grow and learn more about yourself and the world.

There are some important questions you should ask yourself as you begin to plan your year:

  • What do I want to do?
  • How do I want to benefit?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What skills can I acquire?


The Gap Year Association is a great place to get started and can help you realize just how many opportunities are out there!

To hear directly from students, you can read the Duke Gap Year Program blogs or GapYearly, which also has a database of programs to explore.

Gap Year Pathways

Admitted students who choose Duke can request to defer their enrollment for one year* – their space in the class for the following year will be held for them.

*Two-year deferrals are awarded on a case-by-case basis, usually for required military or religious service requirements.

If you want to defer your enrollment, there are two pathways you can follow:

  • Independent Gap Year – Any student who wishes to defer their enrollment can request their gap year through their Applicant Portal.
  • Duke Gap Year Program – Those who are interested in joining a cohort of students who are taking intentional gap years, emphasizing civic engagement and personal discovery, may apply to join the Duke Gap Year Program. Some funding may also be available.

Students who defer their enrollment are expected to enroll at Duke once the deferment period ends.

Gap Year Conditions

If Participant’s request for a gap year is approved, Participant must agree to the following Terms and Conditions, and Participant’s parent/guardian must acknowledge that Participant has agreed to these Terms and Conditions and to support Participant in doing so:

  • Participant will not apply for admission as a degree-seeking student to any other college or university during the remainder of this year or during the coming year.
  • Participant will not enroll as a full-time student or degree-seeking student at another college or university during your gap year.
  • If Participant chooses to take any college courses for Duke credit, Participant understands and acknowledges that Duke will only recognize the credits in accordance with relevant Duke policies.
  • Participant will not enroll in a post-graduate program at a secondary school.
  • Participant will abide by the Conditions of Application that Participant agreed to when Participant applied to Duke and the conditions contained in Participant’s letter of admission to Duke.
  • Participant is required to maintain high standards of academic performance and personal behavior in and out of school, as mentioned in the letter of admission to Duke University. This includes abiding by our Community Standard.
  • If there is any change in the information Participant provided in Participant’s application to Duke—including any academic, personal, disciplinary, or legal matters—Participant agrees to contact the Duke admissions office within 48 hours.


Gap year students will receive an email from Duke Admissions in January of the year they intend to enroll, asking them to confirm their plans to matriculate in the fall. Students should notify the Admissions Office of any changes to their contact information in order to receive this information in a timely manner.

Once their enrollment is confirmed, students will begin to receive email communication from other campus offices, including New Student Programs, Housing, Visa Services, etc.

Financial Aid

Students who applied for financial aid during the application process will need to reapply with updated financial aid information in order to receive their new package. Students should connect with the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support with questions about this process.

Like all admitted students who choose Duke, winners of merit scholarships must request a gap year on their Duke Admissions Portal. Students who were awarded a merit scholarship via the Duke Office of University Scholars and Fellows (OUSF) will maintain that scholarship after their gap year but must also seek approval for their gap year from OUSF. Students who were awarded a Robertson Scholarship and wish to take a gap year must contact the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program to seek approval for their gap year and for more information.


All first-year students who are admitted to and choose Duke are eligible to apply to the Duke Gap Year Program. The DGYP aims to support gap years emphasizing personal discovery and civic engagement.


If your application to the Duke Gap Year Program (DGYP) is accepted, you and your parent/guardian are required to sign a Participation Agreement, which will include the following and other expectations:

  • Follow Duke Gap Year Program blog and social media expectations.
  • Submit a mid-year and end-of-year report reflecting on your experiences.
  • Complete surveys for the Gap Year Research Consortium at Colorado College.
  • Engage with the DGYP community once you arrive on campus.

A copy of this Agreement will be available for review on this website beginning in April. The actual Agreement will be sent to DGYP applicants and their guardians via Adobe Sign.


  • Students who need financial assistance to support their gap year plans can request from $5,000 to $15,000 in funding from the Duke Gap Year Program.
  • In most cases, funding will be distributed directly to the student in two payments, one in July and one in January. The funding can be applied toward program costs, transportation, housing, equipment, and other expenses directly associated with their gap year program.
  • Funding will be considered reportable income for that tax year.

Applying to the DGYP

The Duke Gap Year Program application will be available in spring 2024. Read more about the application process here.

DGYP Resources

Interesting in learning more about the Duke Gap Year Program and want to start planning your own gap year?

Take a look at some of the resources below to get started:

  • Duke Gap Year Program – Current Students and Blogs
  • Gap Year Association – A national non-profit that is a comprehensive gap year guide and resource
  • GapYearly – A gap year planning guide for students by students, with first-hand accounts and mentorship from former gappers
  • Service Year – A database of volunteer and civic engagement opportunities
Duke student pets two horses.
Skijler, a Duke Gap Year student backpacking in Auvillar, France.

Outdoor Experiences

Skijler Hiking the Camino de Santiago

“I walked 250 miles with nothing but myself and a backpack.”
Read More

Community Service

Cate’s work with the Sierra Club

“I worked on restoring Idaho’s wild salmon populations to healthy, sustainable levels and learned so much more about running successful policy campaigns.”
Read More

Personal Projects

Mack’s Prep School

“MSP is the academic nonprofit I founded with the mission of equipping under-resourced and economically disadvantaged high schoolers with all the necessary skills, knowledge and tools to take advantage of their education.”
Read More


Maia’s time in Israel

“For the first two months of being in Israel, each week felt like a new adventure.”
Read More