More and more, high schoolers are turning their tassels and turning to NOLS--for an opportunity to travel, learn new skills, and see new places.
Photo: Dane Sherstad
In 1974 NOLS ran the first outdoor gap year semester in the world. Since then, the program has expanded to locations worldwide and opportunities ranging from 75 to 135 days in length. When you pursue a gap year at NOLS, you will join the nearly 800 students who come to NOLS between high school and college or as a study abroad option during college each year.
A gap year with NOLS is the perfect time-out. Your experience will give you life and leadership skills you'll use for the rest of your life. NOLS is the organization to which the U.S. Naval Academy and NASA send their rising leaders. Tolerance for adversity, vision and action, and judgment and decision-making are just a small sampling of the skills you'll master in addition to strong outdoor skills. Communication, conflict resolution, and self-motivation will serve you well as you head off to campus after your gap year.
A NOLS course—or a series of courses—is a highly educational and exciting way to spend your gap year. Take a break from traditional classrooms and add leadership, outdoor skills, and cultural experience to your resume under the instruction of some of the most creative, passionate, and knowledgeable teachers you can find. All the while, you'll be earning academic credit to put toward your chosen major. You may just find that major on your course; many students attest to discovering direction for their future while on their NOLS course.
What NOLS teaches cannot be learned in a classroom or on a city street. It takes practice to learn outdoor skills and time to develop leadership.
Photo: Ashley Wise
Benefits of a NOLS Gap Year
Gain leadership skills such as resilience, judgment, self-awareness, peer leadership, and more that will lead to your success in college, in extra-curricular pursuits, and in your career.
Learn wilderness medicine skills that are essential in the backcountry and invaluable in the frontcountry. Gain the confidence of being prepared to assess and manage an emergency.
Earn a NOLS diploma, the leadership credential employers value.
Develop your risk management skills by learning to identify and mitigate risk, a skill transferable to the rest of your life.
Earn academic credit and start working toward your college degree months before setting foot on any campus. Over 400 colleges and universities accept credit earned on NOLS semesters. Subjects include biology, environmental studies, leadership, skills practicum, risk assessment, and cultural studies. Learn more here.
See the world. Develop all these skills for success down the road in some of the most awe-inspiring locations in the world. No classroom will rival the world's most pristine and untrammeled wilderness.
Benefit from NOLS' quality and local knowledge. NOLS admissions, staffing, training, risk management, and curriculum development are all managed in Lander, Wyo. to high U.S. standards. In each NOLS location, we have facilities designed to support remote educational expeditions staffed by individuals with extensive local knowledge and background.
Each year, NOLS grants over $1.5 million in scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to have this life-changing experience. It is of great importance to NOLS that resources do not limit students who are committed to learning leadership skills, outdoor competence, and environmental understanding. Learn more about the myriad ways to defray the costs of your dream gap year here.
The Gap Year Semester
This semester in the Rocky Mountains is limited to students between the ages of 17 and 19; Explore this semester here.
NOLS Semesters and Patagonia Year
All NOLS semesters meet student's gap-year needs; in fact many of our gap year students point to the benefits of spending part of their gap year with current college students who are taking the same NOLS course in addition to other gap year students.
NOLS invented the outdoor semester, and nearly 50 years of curriculum development informs every course we offer. Semesters cover a wide range of skills to meet your gap-year goals. We offer courses throughout the world, allowing you to tailor your NOLS experience and explore new and interesting cultures. Some students even choose to string together more than one NOLS semester (or shorter NOLS courses) to build a gap year adventure chock full of leadership, skills development, and exploration.