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Whether you are a parent looking for a gap year program for your son or daughter or you are a student doing the research yourself, finding the right gap year program can be a challenge. Factors like the type of program, timing, and cost are just some of the considerations that come into play. An independent gap year advisor may just be what you need—an expert who can help pick the perfect one.

Much like today's independent college admissions counselor or independent educational consultant (IEC), gap year advisors spend considerable time with students—honing in on their interests, vetting programs, presenting options, and helping navigate the applications and process, plus more.

Here are 4 reasons to consider hiring a gap year advisor:

1. They make gap year program recommendations based on a student's interests.

To get the ball rolling, most gap year advisors start with an initial assessment of a student's passions and interests based on an online questionnaire followed up by a phone/in-person consultation. Both of these initial steps help the advisor get to know the student better, assess what they are looking for in a gap year program, evaluate what they want to get out of their experience, and discuss their ultimate experience goals. A gap year experience in adventure travel is very different than one of language immersion or volunteerism.

2. They have done the gap year research for you.

There is a plethora of gap year options out there, especially as the industry continues to grow. A qualified gap year advisor has researched a lengthy list of programs, has interviewed program directors and program alumni to collect information and referrals, and narrows down a parents'/student's search. Simply put, they have established a good working relationship with many of these programs and are in tune with the most credible and reliable programs. One gap year advisor that I recently spoke to told me that she has vetted more than 75 programs that she's recommended to her students in the past; a list of 35 turn up on her "go to" list more often than not; and that she typically recommends about 8 - 10 programs to her parents/students, so that they are not overwelhmd in the process. Many of her recommendations are accredited by the American Gap Association (AGA).

3. They act as a "program go-between" for students.

Submitting applications, travel planning, and document collection are all parts of the registration process. A gap year advisor can take care of all of this for you, or help you complete all of the application steps right up until go time. It's often worth the convenience and ease.

4. They offer several levels of services and customizations.

The same gap year advisor that I recently met who has been advocating educational travel and worked in the gap year industry for more than 35 years starting with her own gap year offers three levels of service based on her client's needs

-A starter package: Initial questionnaire and short personal interview followed up with a list of program recommendations for the parents and students to then research and do the homework themselves without follow-up.

-A mid-level service: An additional number of hours dedicated to research, a proposal, ongoing communication with parents and the student, as well as outreach to the program administrators. Application assistance and post gap year evaluation.

-A comprehensive package: All of the above, plus ongoing support and communication via email and phone with students throughout their year abroad. This level of service also includes troubleshooting say if a safety issue comes up like the evacuation of students in Nepal. This often comes into play with less structured programs or if a student is going on more than one program during the year. This helps alleviate parent worry for sure.

5. They follow up on your gap year experience.

After a student travels on a gap year, it is imperative for a gap year advisor to loop back in. A personal interview is conducted post gap year for evaluation purposes after completion of the experience. It not only helps the student learn how to apply their experience to the real world, but it also helps the advisor gain further knowledge for the next client.

Just like there are independent educational consultants to help students get into college, there are more and more independent advisors readily available for students to select a gap year program. You just might want to tap their gap year resources and knowledge.