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UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship - 8 Reasons Why It's a Solid Option

Sometimes, we’re pressured to finish college and enter the workforce as soon as possible. While some students can align with that goal, others would like to have extra time to explore their possibilities and try new things. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for high school graduates to apply for a gap year before they enter college, in which they spend that time gathering their finances, taking an academic break, or even traveling to other places in the world.


For recently admitted students at UNC who want to pursue a gap year, they have the option to apply for this fellowship, which allows them the freedom to design their own gap year experience with the support from the school.


Interested and want to learn more? Continue reading this article to get an overview of the fellowship and why you should participate.


Overview of the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship


What is the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship?

The UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship is the first college-sponsored gap year program that allows students to design their own experience for a year abroad. Students who are accepted for this fellowship can construct their own learning agenda based on their interests or participate in an already-designed program.


How much funding does the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship provide?

The Global Gap Year Fellowship is an $8,000 award to be used for all Gap Year-related expenses, and the program states that previous fellows have completed a Gap Year without exceeding their award stipends.


What projects can I pursue with the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship?

A core component of the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship is community service, and many students choose to engage in creative, self-designed service projects abroad.


Projects can vary in scope. Take for example Anna Brodmerkel, a Class of 2018 Global Gap Year Fellow, and her experience of saving turtles in Greece. She and a group of volunteers dug up nests to aid hatchlings who had difficulty in reaching the surface and getting to the ocean. Or, you might find Class of 2019 Gaby Alemán’s work to be more compelling to you, in which she traveled to Sri Lanka to volunteer at an orphanage and Bali, Indonesia to teach English and work with communities.


As you can see, students in this program are able to travel to places all around the world and conduct interesting projects, and if you’d like to know more about the fellows and their work, check out Meet the Fellows.


Is the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship prestigious?

Yes – not only do you need to be accepted as an Early Action applicant by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a selective and reputable college, but you also need to be among the few to be selected for this fellowship. While the acceptance rate is not known to the public, the program establishes that the Fellowship is a “highly selective award.”


Eligibility and Application Criteria

Who is eligible to apply for the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship?

For those who’d like to apply for the UNC Global Gap Year fellowship, they should have the following traits:

  • High school seniors who applied to UNC-Chapel Hill by the Early Action deadline

  • Intellectually curious

  • Wants experiential learning

  • Creative and resourceful

  • Open to new experiences abroad, although previous international experience is not required

  • Must be 18 years of age when they leave the country


What is the application process and timeline?

The timeline is as follows:

  1. Apply using the Common Application and submit by the Early Application deadline.

  2. At the end, when students are asked if they are interested in one of two Global Opportunities, they should select the Global Gap Year Fellowship option and answer additional supplemental questions.

  3. Finalists are selected and invited to UNC for the Global Gap Year Fellowship Finalist Weekend.

    1. The experience will include staying near UNC’s campus, attending workshops on ethical service, and being interviewed by the selection committee.

  4. Shortly after the Finalist Weekend, finalists will be notified of their acceptance status.

  5. Those who accept their position at the Global Gap Year Fellowship spend two weeks in the summer at UNC to learn about global engagement and prepare for their time abroad.


Dates and Notable Activities of the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship

During the summer after students graduate from high school, fellows will attend a Summer Institute at UNC to learn about global engagement and submit their Gap Year proposals. After the conclusion of this experience, their adventure abroad will begin. Students will need to be involved in at least 6 months of service before returning to UNC for their freshman year in August of the following year.


During the duration of the Global Gap Year Fellowship, students will submit at least 2 blog posts and photos per month of their time abroad and meet their Global Gap Year Coordinator bi-monthly for check-ins. Throughout the program, the students will compose a Mid-Year Reflection, Proposal Updates, and an End-of-Year Reflection. During the remaining weeks of the program, they will attend a Re-Entry Retreat upon returning to UNC-Chapel Hill and create a Global Gap Year Presentation.


8 Reasons to Apply for the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship

With a better idea of the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship and what it entails, let’s summarize the eight reasons why we recommend applying for the program.


1. You’ll receive full funding from the program for the year.

While many students choose gap years in their college career, very few are able to receive funding for their time. However, the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship is different because its $8,000 stipend ensures that students are able to sufficiently provide community service and explore their passions without being financially inhibited. While you might worry this is not enough, the program reassures its applicants that this is enough funding to cover all expenses related to the project of your choice, especially because you will most likely be located in a developing country. Therefore, you can receive support from the college while working on your project, while saving your personal funds for when you want to do independent travel.


2. You will be engaged in opportunities abroad.

As expected from the UNC “Global” Gap Year Fellowship, the program offers benefits for students who yearn for international experiences. The application states that you don’t need previous international experience to apply, and therefore, this could be a great first-time opportunity for you to travel to another country. It’s exciting how you’ll be able to meet new people, visit cities, and try activities that is not offered in your home country, and that makes this fellowship all the more appealing.


3. You’ll connect to a global and local service community.

While abroad, you’ll be able to create impactful and beneficial change in the world by engaging with global communities, and for students who are looking for valuable service opportunities, this is an amazing chance to do so. The program wants students to apply their gap year experiences to local service initiatives and support them in exploring future global opportunities, so you’ll gain a network into more service experiences as well.


4. You’ll be mentored and advised throughout the program and beyond.

Of course, in this program, you won’t be expected to do everything alone and without help, and that’s where mentorship comes in. The organization will connect staff and students to mentor Fellows before, during, and after the Gap Year, and the intensive summer training program before the start of the Gap Year will shape up Fellows to be sufficiently ready to start their journey abroad. You may also be able to connect with previous Fellow alumni and discuss their service project, their experience, and how they applied it to their career.


5. You’ll connect with faculty at UNC.

Another huge benefit of the UNC Global Gap Year Fellowship is how Fellows will be introduced to professors who will help them create plans for coursework and independent research. Because Fellows will create presentations regarding their Gap Year experience and their interests, this is a great way for students to meet with professors who share their passions and can provide advice and aid. In addition, Fellows will be connected to other student groups and opportunities on campus and in the community to continue their interests from their time abroad.


6. You’ll have independence in your project and country of choice.

Students often have an idea of what they want to do and where they want to go. For example, if you want to do engineering, then you might want to do a service project that revolves around engineering concepts. If you’re interested in Southeast Asia, then you’ll likely want to go there and be immersed in the culture of the area. Luckily, the program fully supports you and your endeavors based on what you want to learn, and by reviewing your draft proposals, they’ll guide you on your journey. It cannot be understated how incredible that opportunity is, as you don’t need to confine yourself to a box and be limited by a few choices!


7. You’ll be able to start your college journey smoothly.

If you worry that your transition back into college and campus life will be affected by your Gap Year, you’ll be relieved to hear that there will be no problems in your return. You’ll be able to retain any merit-based awards and you’ll be able to apply for need-based aid through FAFSA and CSS Profile. Your enrollment deposit will be automatically applied to your first-semester charges at the University and you’ll be eligible for campus housing. In addition, any credits you’ve received from AP or IB exams will remain valid. From this information, you should not be hampered by the Gap Year program, and you can start your freshman year easily.


8. You’ll be better prepared to shape your college experience.

Many Fellows were able to apply their interests abroad and come back with a clearer idea of where they want to go. For instance, Leah, GGYF Fellow, stated that her gap year confirmed that a career as a nurse and work in public health was where she wanted to go, as her hands-on experience in real-world clinical settings better informed her of her path. Therefore, time spent on determining your major and courses at college can be reduced if the Gap Year can help you determine whether you like or dislike a certain field of study.


Closing Thoughts

Ultimately the choice lies in you – do you want to do a service project abroad while sacrificing a year that you could have spent in college and graduate faster? When weighing the pros and cons, you would need to sort out your priorities and really ask yourself if this program is for you. If so, then great! Apply for it and see what happens. If not, then there are plenty of other opportunities you can explore. Take your time and don’t rush in making a decision.


One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program


If you are interested in doing university-level research, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Lydia is currently a junior at Harvard University, studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. In high school, she was the captain of her high school’s Academic Decathlon team and attended the Governor's School of Engineering and Technology. In her spare time, she likes to create digital art while listening to music.


Image Source: Global Gap Year Fellowship logo

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