“To regard anyone except yourself as responsible for your judgment is to be a slave, not a free man.
It is from this fact that the liberal arts acquire their name.”
- Mortimer Adler

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Turn Your Gap Year Into A Leap Year With The Great Connections

The Great Connections Leap Year Program provides a deep liberal arts experience, emphasizing extensive individual help. It includes:

  • Six collaborative small group seminars on weekly curriculum readings, led by Marsha Familaro Enright and tutorial staff.

  • A weekly small-group discussion on a longer piece of work with a tutor.

  • A detailed course in writing like professionals with Malachy Walsh, professional advertising writer and classics expert.

  • Individual sessions with tutors every week to examine the student’s progress in understanding the material, and his or her work and goals.

  • Classes in Improv to bolster social skills great for team work

  • Outings to learn about the city history, architecture, art, business, science, educational institutions and any kind of activity that will help students connect the ideas in the classroom to their effect on everyday life.

  • Weekly all-student-and-staff dinners.

  • Guidance in forming their small group on a real-world problem and identifying the problem.

  • Help in networking with accomplished professionals who will provide them with information, wisdom, and guidance in working on their real-world problem.

  • Instruction and guidance in creating a presentation of the group’s solution to a real world problem.

  • Instruction and guidance in creating a portfolio of work from the year, and help in using that portfolio to take your next step, whether college, a business or whatever direction you discover is best.

    We aim to save you the cost of a year, or five years, of wasted college tuition.

    The data on wasted college tuition and confusion about life-direction is appalling. Only 19% of college students are graduating in four years. Thirty-seven percent of college students transfer, which requires them to stay in college longer. Average graduation time at flagship public universities is now 6 years.

    Students and parents are paying upwards of $22,826 for every extra year in a public four-year college. Students who graduate in four years spend 40% less!

    In college, many bright students, tops in their high school classes and with high SAT scores are working hard but fail to get any traction. We believe this is because they have had too many years of school without being taught how to think and learn for themselves - just the skills every person needs to figure out their best direction and succeed in life. Instead, they have been told what to learn and how to find the answers to get top test scores and grades. What other people think they need.

    What Does It Mean To Be A Free Person?

  • Knowing how to learn and think for yourself are critical skills to success. Business leaders such as Stewart Butterfield of Slack are seeking people with these qualities. He explains how the right kind of education in the liberal arts (what The Great Connections provides) deeply prepares a person for success:

    "I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings…I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true--like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces--until they realized that it wasn't true."

    But, moreover, knowing how to learn and think for yourself are critical skills for living as an independent and free adult.

    All of our intense individual guidance is designed to develop the knowledge, skills, judgment and autonomy young people need to succeed in life - the very elements usually lacking in their education.

    if you spend a year deciding what is important and what to accomplish next, the financial implications are amazing.  

    It is not just that a fifth year of high school costs so much less than six years of college. More importantly, when you decide what you want to do with your education, its value increases exponentially because:

  • You’ll focus and work harder.

  • You’ll know it will make a positive difference in your life.  

  • You’ll invest more in it and and get more out of it.  

  • And, you’ll make better decisions about where and how to get the education you want, whether it’s in the college right for you, a technical training program, business experience, or arts, crafts, or trade program.

    Our cost is that of one more year in a private Chicago high school, $20,000, which may be paid in installments. If you’re ready to be challenged in an entirely new way, please apply here.


    We seek individuals who want to change their lives and we’re fortunate to have supporters who are eager to help young people do just that. These generous supporters enable us to offer The Great Connections Leap Year Scholarship Program.

    We offer these scholarships based on a number of criteria including but not limited to merit and financial need.

    If you are right for the program, we want you and will help you find a way to pay for it, but our funds are limited: the earlier you apply, the better your chance of getting help.

    If you are eager to be challenged but aren’t sure you can afford the program, first complete the Program Application here. You can read more details about our scholarships at that page also. Once you are accepted to the program, you will be able to apply for a scholarship.

    Additionally, gap year scholarships are available from numerous organizations. Please see this page at the Gap Association website.


    Early Application Deadline April 10, 2019

    Final Application Deadline June 1, 2019

    Extended Application Deadline September 1, 2019

    The Great Connections does not provide housing. However, we can help you find housing in University Center, a private full-service dormitory and conference center located in downtown Chicago, steps from the Rock Island Metra Train which will take you to your classes. Or, we can help you find an apartment, or a room in a private house. We are happy to help you connect with other Great Connections participants if you wish to room together.

    The Great Connections Leap Year Program accepts no government grants or loans; all of our support is entirely from very generous individuals and foundations. These supporters believe that a free society starts with a free people, people who know what makes freedom possible and are capable of the independent judgment and self-reliance necessary for living in freedom.