Gap Year program

What is a gap year? It’s a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between secondary school and higher education, or sometimes between years at college.

Many colleges now allow a deferred acceptance for students to experience a gap year; they want students to mature so they will succeed at their college. Research at multiple institutions shows students who take gap years far outperform those who don’t. Two studies reported in the Journal of Educational Psychology found former “gappers” reported significantly higher motivation in college—in the form of “adaptive behavior” such as planning, task management, and persistence—than did students who did not take a gap year.

Most gap years are beneficial but not structured for maximum impact and growth. This is how The Great Connections Gap program differentiates itself.

The Great Connections Gap Year program will offer a more thorough, developmentally based, psychologically and educationally complete plan for growing students’ powers and clarity of purpose than any other—therefore providing us with a highly competitive advantage over other gap year programs.  Our school year will powerfully prepare students to find, choose and succeed in a career path for the future economy, while, at the same time, championing reason, individualism, and freedom.

How do we do this? Reason, individualism, and freedom are embedded in the very fabric of how our students learn:

  • We use a distinctive and unusually powerful reason-and-evidence-based methodology.
  • Our method incorporates respectful, collaborative, yet confidence-building interpersonal interaction
  •  And it is reinforced by the deeply-held value of autonomy expressed in the words and actions of all our teachers.

We will introduce students to “the best that has been thought and said” and show them how these ideas are relevant to every choice they make. And we’ll make sure they learn about the philosophy, history, economics, and politics of a free society.

Our plan celebrates individual achievement and strongly develops their independent reasoning powers, while educating them in the full range of ideas and theories, including those of the freedom movement—along with the collectivist theories taught everywhere else in Academia. They will be knowledgeable about a wide range of ideas and subjects, and nurtured in the art of coming to their own conclusions.

First Trimester

Their first trimester in the Great Connections Gap Year Program, our students will learn the ideas, facts, and skills they need to plan their goals and life with such readings as “Philosophy Who Needs It?” and the Meno and Nicomachean Ethics. We’ll study the lives of high achieving and heroic men and women in Plutarch. We’ll learn about how to foster the most productive and enjoyable ways of working and what habits have to be acquired to get through rough times from Csikszentmihalyi’s work on Flow. We’ll study logic, the art of reasoning. Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which schooled great writers such as Cicero, Shakespeare and Churchill, will be our foundation for the art of writing.

The contrasts between Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, and Tocqueville, among others, will teach our students about the nature and problems of a free society.

Second Trimester

In the second trimester, students will form small groups assigned to find a real world problem—in business, the arts, science, or whatever field or problem interests them—and work together to come up with a solution. We’ll find accomplished mentors to give them valuable guidance, feedback, and the experience of knowing someone who has achieved in the field. The students will create a report to present to their guides, fellow classmates, and interested parties such as parents and the organizations the solution could help. The experience will enrich their portfolio of work for college and job applications.


Third Trimester

They’ll reunite in the third trimester, share and unpack their work experience, and focus on issues of economics, personal finance, art, and the marketplace. We’ll study such thinkers as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Carl Menger to give them a thorough grounding in the range of ideas in economics. They’ll also read Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein.

They’ll learn about Claude Shannon’s and Bob Noyce’s critical roles in the history of Silicon Valley. And they’ll study why art is so central—and critical—to navigating life. This way, they’ll be able to understand and celebrate the achievements of science, technology, and humankind.

By the end of the year, they’ll be powerfully prepared to energetically embrace whatever productive future they choose, whether in college or not—and to efficiently take advantage of a college program.

Students will have individual guidance and feedback from their instructors, meeting weekly to reflect on what they’ve learned, their goals, and progress. They’ll benefit as well from the many reasoning, collaborative, and social skills they will develop with our powerful evidence-based discussion methodology. Over the last nine years, 74 percent of our one-week program students have reported that this knowledge and these ideas and skills have remarkably boosted their reasoning ability, independence, academic performance, and self-confidence.

And they’ll engage in many enriching outings to the city and farther, to learn about the implementation of ideas in practical life. After a full year, would it be unreasonable that this much-expanded and comprehensive program would not obtain even better results?

We starting small to insure that the program works optimally for an entire school year. We’re planning an initial class of 15, will develop it into a strong program, and scale it quickly. Students will pay tuition comparable to a private Chicago high school and scholarships will be provided. We aim to reach as many young people as we can and help them become fully capable of living well as free persons, motivated to create a freer society for us all.