Gap Year Students

Semester at Sea offers a one-of-a-kind Gap Year Program for recent secondary/high school graduates.


As a Gap Year students on Semester at Sea, you will earn up to 12 college credits while sailing the ocean and visiting multiple countries. Our ship, the MV World Odyssey, is the most unique floating college in the world, and it’s where you will learn, live, travel, and reflect on your global study abroad experience.

How to Apply

Application Checklist

Here’s what you need to apply to the Semester at Sea Start at Sea Program as a gap year student.


Admission Requirements for Gap Year Students

  • You must have graduated from a secondary/high school by the time of your voyage.
  • Preferred cumulative GPA of 3.0 out 4.0. If needed, our team will complete a GPA conversion as part of the application review process.
  • You must be at least 18 years old at the time of embarkation.

English Language Proficiency Requirements

If your first language is not English, or your secondary school curriculum is not taught in English, you must provide an English language proficiency test score as part of the application process.

  • TOEFL, PTE Academic, IELTS Academic, or Duolingo results are preferred
  • Minimum score required for admission consideration: TOEFL IBT – 79, PTE Academic – 53, IELTS Academic – 6.5, or Duolingo – 110
  • Alternatives to TOEFL, PTE, IELTS, or Duolingo may be considered on a case by case basis

Start at Sea Academic Program

As a Start at Sea student with Semester at Sea, you will enroll in an academic program designed specifically to support your success, while also participating in college-level courses alongside your undergraduate peers.

IU 172C New Student Seminar (3-credit required course)

Semester at Sea’s New Student Seminar has been exclusively for Start at Sea students. It will help you build a network among peers and setting the stage for academic and community success. The New Student Seminar meets for 80 minutes every other day for the full voyage, like all other standard courses do. The New Student Seminar also includes a 1-day in-country Field Class in the first port of call.

IE 200 Global Studies Course (3-credit required course)

All students on the ship enroll in the Global Studies course. This course integrates three core themes— port country discovery, intercultural competence, and oceans and sustainability— and prepares students for life as global citizens.

Lower-Division College Courses

In addition to  the two required courses:  IU 172C New Student Seminar and IE 200 Global Studies— you will also take  1 or 2 additional 3-credit college courses offered at the 100 or 200 level. Semester at Sea offers a broad range of courses across many disciplines on each voyage including Anthropology, Business, Economics, English, Film, Natural Sciences, Sociology, Women’s Studies and World Literature, to name just a few. Please see the specific voyage Course Offerings page for what will be offered on your voyage.

In-Country Experiences

Every Semester at Sea class, excluding Global Studies, includes an 8-hour experiential Field Class in one of the ports along the voyage. In addition to these in-country Field Classes tied to your classes, you will have many other opportunities to explore the port countries along the voyage. 

One option for country exploration is to participate in   Field Programs designed by and offered through Semester at Sea. Examples of Field Programs include half or full day port city orientations, multi-day explorations of a country, and immersive programs designed to create opportunities for voyagers to meaningfully connect to local people and places. Field Programs vary in each port, and begin rolling out for registration ~3 months prior to embarkation.

In addition to Field Classes and Field Programs offered through Semester at Sea, you also have the ability  to make your  own travel plans with newfound friends and classmates that you met on the ship! 

Shipboard Life and Support

An experienced team of professionals including resident directors, academic advisors, mental health counselors, and physicians is aboard the ship to support all voyagers.

One of our voyage Resident Directors provides specialized ongoing assistance and engagement opportunities for Start at Sea students throughout the voyage. Resident Directors are professional staff with advanced degrees in higher education, counseling, education, or a related field who help form meaningful communities on board. 

In addition, there are over 75 student-led organizations that form on each voyage that you can  join (or lead!), which cover a range of interests such as photography, spirituality, theater, intramural sports, and social justice. You are able to indicate your interest in these groups and interact with them even before embarking the ship!

Hear From Past Gap Year Voyagers

Headshot of Melissa Moore

Semester at Sea was truly the two most influential semesters of my undergraduate degree. Having sailed the first time as a gap year student, I had no idea what to expect. The hands-on and tangible learning experiences are something that I later found were unmatched on a typical college campus and were one of the things that brought be back for round two. While the itinerary was initially the most attractive part of the program, I can say with certainty the shipboard community is the glue of the program. The connection, friends, and (ship) families that I made during my voyages are something that still sticks with me to this day!

Semester at Sea were the best four months of my life! I met some of my best friends, learned so many new things, and traveled to so many new places. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

Headshot of Juan Marmaneu Ramon

SAS was the experience of my life, truly something that made me approach life in a very different way. It broaden my horizons, and as a European citizen, it helped me learn about different cultures all around the world. As I said, a once in a lifetime experience, the experience of my entire life.

Why Choose a Semester at Sea
Gap Year?

Give your future a kick-start

The broad exposure of Semester at Sea provides a comparative global education experience. This is incredibly valuable for gap year students in narrowing their field of study, choosing a major, and thinking about future opportunities to study, volunteer, or work abroad.

Define your world

As a gap year student on Semester at Sea, you will get a taste of the entire world as you explore 10+ international ports and communities, attend classes on global topics with students from around the world, and take part in service projects and cross-cultural opportunities in port. You will then be more prepared to head off to college with a defined sense of the world and a clearer understanding of your own strengths and interests.

Prepare for college

Some options for additional support include seminars on preparing for college, informal mentoring with upperclassmen, academic tutoring, access to shipboard faculty, involvement in student clubs and activities, and reflection activities after each port and at the end of the voyage.

Specialized programming

On Semester at Sea voyages, gap year students are fully integrated with the shipboard community with additional support that students can choose to utilize. A designated resident director will provide support for gap students throughout the voyage. This RD will set up an initial meeting to give gap students the opportunity to connect with their peers, ask questions, and explore common interests. After this initial gathering, the students can decide whether they wish to continue meeting as a group.

Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about applying to Semester at Sea as a gap year student

When should I apply?

Semester at Sea operates on a rolling admissions basis, meaning there are no application deadlines for specific semesters. However, it is recommended that you begin the application process 12 months before the semester in which you would like to participate. Applications will continue to be accepted until approximately one month before the start of the voyage.

Is the program open to students in all majors?

Yes, students from all majors regularly enroll in Semester at Sea. More than 40 majors are typically represented on any given voyage.

What are my chances of gaining admission?

If you are in good academic standing and have a good record with regard to behavior on your home campus, you will be given every consideration. Semester at Sea operates with the philosophy that all undergraduate students should study abroad. We will work with you to help make it possible.

Do I have to apply for a specific semester?

Yes, however, you can transfer your application to a different voyage without reapplying. You will be required to provide updated transcripts to be considered for admission to the later voyage.

Is the admission application fee refundable?

No, the $75 admission application fee is not refundable.

How long will it take to hear about my admission?

Once the Office of Admission has received your completed application, you will receive a reply in about 7-10 business days. It is advisable to follow up and verify that all components of your application have been received.

When do voyages fill?

It varies. Voyages typically fill one to four months prior to sailing. We encourage you to submit your application early but please contact our office if you have a last-minute opportunity to join our program for the semester.

Do I need a passport? What about visas?

Yes, if you do not already hold a passport, you should apply for one now. If you do have a passport, you should check its expiration date. Your passport needs to be valid for six months beyond the end of the voyage. We advise purchasing the largest passport book available. Specific passport requirements are available for confirmed Lifelong Learners via the voyage prep portal.

Visa requirements vary depending on the countries included on the itinerary. Typically, you will need to secure two or three visas individually. Some of the group visas will be obtained by ISE.

Ready to Set Sail?

Take the first step on the journey of a lifetime.