Wilderness Adventures

Why Your Teen Should Take a Gap Year Before College

By Wilderness Adventures December 10, 2021

In an ever-changing and fast-paced world, your teen may be on the fast track to college, be it an accredited 4-year undergraduate program or a two-year associate program. But did you ever stop to think that maybe college immediately following your child’s high school graduation may not be the best course of action? With decisions on what to study becoming more and more complex and with the cost of higher education on the uptick, it might make more sense for your teen to take time off to learn more about the world and themselves before making such crucial choices.

Read on to learn more about the advantages of your teen taking a gap year before attending college and what gap year programs our experienced youth development organization at Wilderness Adventures have expertly curated.    

Gap Year Advantages

If you or your teen has ever questioned, “should I take a gap year?” or “is a gap year a good idea?” then look no further than these three key reasons why your teen should take a gap year before attending college.

1. Explore the country in a new way.

Learning about the world through the news, books, documentaries, and movies is one thing, but experiencing it first-hand is an entirely different adventure. There’s no need to spend thousands on a flight to a remote island across the world in order to connect with oneself while volunteering or exploring nature. Doing a domestic gap year or semester is a great way to keep costs down while also getting in touch with different areas of the country, such as exploring the mountainous regions of the North, the warm and coastal South and West Coast, or even the hazy forestry of the Pacific Northwest.

2. Discover their real goals and how best to achieve them. 

Like we mentioned previously, taking a gap year can help your teen better understand themselves and what is really important to them, making decisions such as choosing a major or a career path more informed and intentional. 

Specific Gap Year Association stats to back this up include: 84% of respondents to their study said their time helped them learn skills that helped them become successful in their work; 77% said their gap year helped them find their purpose in life; 75% said it helped them get a job; 73% reported their gap year helped them prepare for college.

3. Gain valuable experiences without spending tens of thousands of dollars on higher education. 

Remember, a gap year doesn’t mean a teen couldn’t “hack it” or is stuck doing nothing. From volunteer programs to taking courses part-time at universities, teens can gain valuable experiences that advance both their professional and personal growth without breaking the bank.

With the cost of average tuition bundled with room and board amounting to $21,370 per year—think of how many new experiences your teen could have for a fraction of that price! 

Wilderness Adventure’s Gap Year Programs

If your teen is interested in taking a gap year and enjoys the great outdoors, they should consider exploring one of our WALI gap year programs. The Wilderness Adventures Institute (WALI) Gap Semester programs are for students 18 and older and provide our adventurers with opportunities to test their foundational outdoor skills and further their capabilities as a leader.


During the program, your teen will perform meaningful service work alongside National Forest rangers and non-profit advocates and earn their Wilderness First Responder certification—the industry standard for professional guides, trip leaders, search and rescue team members, outdoor recreationists, and international travelers. 


One of our Fall Gap Semesters takes students to the Rockies, where they will partake in a combination of wilderness and backcountry experiences, including exploration of Yellowstone National Park, City of Rocks, and the Eagle Cap Wilderness.


Our alternative Fall Gap Semester in the Pacific Northwest includes experiences like a mountaineering skill section, a raft guide training, and more, allowing students to sharpen their backcountry hard skills and leadership abilities within a supportive and inclusive community.


Or choose to participate in our Spring Gap Semester in the Southwest, where we explore Canyonlands National Park, Labyrinth Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante, and the Coronado National Forest.   


Finally, our Summer Gap Semester program also takes place in the Rockies, exploring similar terrain to the Fall Gap Semester! Some of the highlights include backpacking in the Grand Staircase Escalante, taking a Wilderness First Responder Course, and whitewater kayaking.

About Wilderness Adventures

Wilderness Adventures is an adventure travel company established in 1973. We offer different types of camps: a day camp (Base Camp) in Jackson Hole and overnight trips, including gap semester programs, leadership programs, and custom adventures. Our programs combine adventure with outdoor education, where kids of all ages get to explore National Parks, National Forests, and Wilderness areas in the US & abroad.


Ready to explore our once-in-a-lifetime adventures with your teen? Visit our website today to request info on your desired trip!