Taking a Gap Year from High School or College: Why Trails Momentum is a Good OptionApril 2, 2021
After graduating from high school or college, many young adults wonder: “What should I do next?”. There is an assumption that high school graduates will go straight to college to continue their education and college graduates should join the workforce. Young adults are expected to know what their career or educational path should be, but for many 18-22 year olds, it’s difficult to imagine what they’d like to be doing next year, much less the rest of their lives.
Graduates often hear that the world is their oyster, and while that can be exciting, it can also be challenging to begin to narrow what can be perceived as an endless amount of options. The reality is that many young adults may feel overwhelmed by their choices or unsure what their next step should be. For these students, a “gap year” can be beneficial for building life skills and creating focus as they decide what their next goal will be.
What is a Gap Year?
A gap year is typically taken the year after high school or college. Students may decide to travel, volunteer, explore career options, or move back home. While a gap year has sometimes been perceived as frivolous or a waste of time, a recent study of “more than 900 first-year students by Sydney University researchers has revealed that not only did taking a year off have a positive effect on students’ motivation, it also translated to a real boost in performance in the first semesters at university.”
American Gap Association statistics found that 97% of gap year alumni respondents felt their gap year improved their maturity. Gap year activities such as traveling or volunteering are known for pushing students outside of their comfort zone. While it may seem intimidating, persevering through gap year adjustments and challenges is an extremely empowering achievement that builds maturity and independence.
A gap year is a time for exploration and self discovery, but some students may require more structure and support. For these young adults, an adventure-based wilderness therapy program can provide the guidance they need during their gap year.
The Benefits of Wilderness Therapy for Young Adults
Students who participate in Trails Momentum adventure-based wilderness therapy program are taking the opportunity to do something that is truly transformative and focused on their growth as fledgling young adults. Trails Momentum’s adventure-based wilderness therapy approach helps strip away the aspects of daily life that are not providing direction and fulfillment and helps students reflect on who they want to be and identify the steps to get there.
Adventure therapy can range from hiking to rock climbing to mountain biking. Each activity provides a unique opportunity for young adults to have a new experience while strengthening life skills that will continue to be of benefit after their gap year. For example, rock climbing encourages communication. A climber needs to be able to effectively communicate with their belayer to build trust and ensure safety. An activity like mountain climbing promotes problem-solving skills as students survey the terrain and decide the best way to travel the trails. Backpacking teaches self-reliance and a sense of independence as students learn to build campsites, cook meals, and build primitive skills such as starting a fire. During a gap year, these adventure activities can inspire young adults to decide their next step as they build confidence with a community of peers and staff that support them.
Students are taught from the “ground up” the fundamental skill set for each adventure activity, increasing their efficacy in the outdoors and allowing them to continue to engage in healthy outdoor pursuits after they transition from the program. Students who transition from Trails Momentum are confident, possess greater resilience and work ethic, as well as have taken the opportunity to hone the interpersonal skills so vital to successful independence and adulthood.
Adventure programming, clinical services, education, service-learning, and community living are all geared towards helping our students successfully launch into independence. We want our students to develop a greater sense of self through exposure to new opportunities and challenge by choice. The integration of college academics helps students work to internalize new habits of mind and transfer their knowledge into skills and behaviors needed for adulthood.
Education During a Gap Year
We recognize that for many young adults, educational milestones and goals are intertwined with one’s identity, self-esteem and ability to transition into adult independence. For that very reason, Trails Momentum and its team of highly experienced educators have deliberately designed educational programming to meet the needs of its students in a way that is authentically coupled with the program’s emphasis on whole student growth. Likewise, unlike other gap year programs, Trails Momentum strongly believes in developing both soft and hard skills.
Trails Momentum and its team of highly experienced educators have deliberately designed educational programming to meet the needs of its students. Trails Momentum’s Inquiry-Based Experiential Education (IBEE) identifies key questions in academic disciplines and scaffolds learning experiences for both classroom and field experiences. Instructors create flexible, on-campus learning sessions that lead into guided field work so that students can work independently and in small groups to actively apply academic concepts to their own experiences. Learning paths may include completing high school, preparing for the GED, or working towards college credits. Students who fear that they will fall behind their peers in education during their gap year can feel confident that they are still moving towards their goals while at Trails Momentum.
Our students emerge having taken the time to rethink priorities, cultivate a deeper sense of purpose, and re-engaged with their families in adult parent-child relationships. Trails Moment offers transition planning to help students move smoothly to the next stage of their journey. Some return to college, while others have gone onto transitional living programs to receive continued support in a structured environment. There they get part-time jobs, enroll in classes and continue to put into practice the relationship skills they’ve learned at Trails Momentum. Today, most graduates report maintaining the progress they’ve made during our program.
Developing and Strengthening Relationships
Some students may have left school because they experienced a setback or some perceived failure. They may be dealing with feelings of disappointment or shame around taking time away from school or college. For these students, a program that integrates individual, group, and family therapy can help them process these experiences and begin to move forward. We are strengths-based at Trails Momentum. This means we focus on what students are, not what they aren’t. We work with students to develop their natural abilities. Our program’s licensed, experienced therapists guide our students on a journey of growth and healing.
One of the greatest benefits of enrolling a program for young adults is creating friendships and relationships with peers who are experiencing the same setbacks or struggles that they are. This helps young adults realize that they are not alone. These connections can lead to friendships that last far beyond their gap year. The Trails Momentum program is relationship-based and emphasizes learning how to connect with others and work together in therapy and through adventure activities. Students learn what healthy relationships should look like, and how to set boundaries while advocating for themselves. Our young adults also learn to find healthy activities they can engage in with friends when they return back to their home or school life. Trails Momentum is a transformative experience, offering adventure, true friendships, skill building, planning, self-advocacy and family reconnection.
Growth isn’t limited to the students at Trails Momentum. Clinicians also work with parents and families to help improve communication while building mutual trust and working toward mutual goals. Parents and siblings will learn new skills that will help strengthen the relationship with your child and support them in success. For the duration of the Trails Momentum program, each family member is provided with the appropriate communication and clinical tools necessary to contribute to the process of becoming a healthy functioning family system. By strengthening their family connection, students leave feeling supported by their family and ready to break old habits and create a new narrative for themselves.
Trails Momentum for Young Adults
Our adventure-based approach empowers young adults to choose to change for themselves. By combining traditional therapeutic approaches, such as individual, group, and family therapy, with more experiential learning opportunities, young adults begin to play a more active role in their therapeutic process. Our beautiful mountain location is the perfect backdrop for students to learn healthier ways to cope with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health or behavioral issues that may be getting in the way of them achieving their goals.
Many of the young adults we work with have struggled with self-doubt and fear of leaving their comfort zone. Over the course of the program, they learn how to take back control of their lives and step up confidently as leaders in a group setting. The skills they learn teach them to communicate more effectively, manage overwhelming emotions, and build strong connections with others that help them succeed in multiple areas of their lives. For more information please call (828) 457-8576.