Uncollege: The Gap Year Program

Source:  EdSurge, Sep 2013

Stephens is coalescing this goal into an official fellowship program, the Gap Year Program, to help other motivated dropouts to embark on their own self-learning journey.

A big part of the program is to instill confidence and street smarts in students who may be daunted by the task of taking complete ownership of their education for the very first time. “Some of the things we’re doing in the Gap Year Program would have been helpful for me as I was doing the Thiel Fellowship–particularly learning how to stay motivated and committed,” says Stephens in an interview with EdSurge.

These ideas are reflected in the curriculum of the one-year program, which is broken down into four phases, each lasting three months: 

  • In the first phase, all Fellows will live together in a communal house in San Francisco to “learn how to learn.” Stephens says they’ll build both “inward-facing skills” like how to communicate, persevere and stay motivated, and “outward-facing skills” like building connections and developing one’s personal brand.
  • In the second phase, Fellows go abroad and learn how to adapt to a different culture. Stephens explains, “It’s all about getting folks to get outside of their comfort zone, to a place where they don’t speak the local language and living in an environment that’s the complete opposite from their upbringing.”
  • During the third phase, the Fellows will get an internship to get a taste of the working world. “There’s a lot of frustration among people in the hiring world. One of the complaints I hear a lot is that ‘college kids need to be told what to do, have their hands held and be given gold stars. Why can’t we find people who are self-motivated and can find their own resources to get the job done?'”
  • In the final phase, the Fellows will be tasked with “creating a project with real-world value.” These projects can take any shape or form, from apps, books and Kickstarter campaigns to building an actual company.

Related Reading: EdSurge, Feb 2013

As the old adage goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Start with yourself. That’s the central tenet of Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will by the young, charismatic UnCollege.org founder Dale J. Stephens.


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