There is a belief that attending college is the logical next step after completing high school. Then they are expected to graduate college and go out and find a job. But the reality is that many young adults find themselves at the intersection of these big life changes and find themselves asking: “Now what”. Some young adults may not yet be ready to attend college and live independently after high school. Some young adults may not know what they want their life path to be after they graduate from college. Some young adults may even find that halfway through their college years they feel stuck, confused, or overwhelmed. When these feelings arise, what can young adults do?

A gap year is a year of experiential learning typically taken after high school, prior to college enrollment. Gap years can take many forms and may involve participating in an organized gap-year program, traveling independently, working as an intern or paid employee, or volunteering. Gap year programs are appropriate for recent high school and college graduates and for students who have decided to drop out or take time off. Whether you’re taking a break from school or delaying starting for a few months, young adults look to gap year programs for the same reasons: to provide structured adventure activities, to learn from experiences, to explore personal goals, and to become more independent. 

Obstacles Young Adults Face When Taking Time Off School

Failure to launch is a common challenge many young adults face, especially after taking time off school. Failure to launch syndrome describes a young adult who is struggling with the transition to adulthood after a long duration of dependency without notable progress or motivation. Many students who have taken time off school report feeling less motivated the longer they put off returning to school, which puts them at risk of getting trapped in failure to launch and reinforces a sense of hopelessness. 

Symptoms associated with failure to launch may include:

  • Poor work ethic
  • Low distress tolerance
  • Low levels of motivation
  • Low levels of persistence
  • High expectations of others without reciprocating
  • Failure to take responsibility
  • Lack of vision (for the future or long-term goals)
  • Lack of skills needed for adulthood (basic cooking and cleaning skills)

There are also the emotional challenges that come from leaving school. For students who have dropped out, they may feel embarrassment, shame, or overall feeling of failure. It could be that they struggled with managing their schedule and the freedom that comes with being independent for the first time. It could be that they were not receiving the mental health or academic support they needed and felt unable to ask for help. The stigma around being a “college dropout” can color how they perceive themselves and their ability to achieve their goals. These feelings of self doubt and negative self-esteem can make it challenging for students to re-engage in their education or set new goals for themselves. 

How to Take Advantage of Gap Year Programming

Taking time off school can be a great opportunity for students to regain motivation to launch if they remain goal-oriented. While they may struggle with motivation and feeling directionless, plans to work on setting and achieving personal goals can help young adults get the most out of the structure of a gap year program.

Some ways to support your child who wants to take time off school include:

  • Explore their interests. Sit down with your young adult and ask them about their passions and career goals. Once you understand their desires, discuss the road to get there. Help them take action and implement a plan to get where they want to go.
  • Try volunteering. Community service has been proven to have a positive effect on a person’s mental health. There is a feeling of being useful and finding purpose. Volunteering also provides a great opportunity to explore some of the interests that they have identified without the pressure of it turning into a full on career path. 
  • Suggest other training opportunities. Vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and industry-specific certifications are valuable ways to achieve certifications. These can be very beneficial for your young adult. Help them find resources to look into for this type of thing.
  • Come up with a plan for independence. It is critical that your young adult knows that they cannot rely on you to solve their problems. They should not be comfortable living under your rules indefinitely. Set clear boundaries with them around what your role is as the parent of an adult child.  
  • Listen. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Do not put them down for their choices or career passions. Again, you can’t choose these things for them. Be supportive and listen to what makes them happy and help them get there.
  • Find a support system. For young adults who were unable to seek out the support they needed in school, a gap year is a great time to build up their support system. It can be talking with family and friends to create a plan for when they are feeling overwhelmed. It can be working with a mental health professional to help them set goals and create healthy coping skills. It could also be seeking out a treatment program such as wilderness therapy. 

When considering how to spend their gap year, it is important for young adults to consider what their hope to achieve during this time. Whether they have professional, education, or personal goals, having a plan will help prepare them to work towards those goals. This will include thinking about how they will manage their time around volunteering or training opportunities and researching what will be available to them during their gap year. 

The benefits of wilderness therapy for young adults

For young adults who are struggling to gain the independence and confidence they need to launch themselves into adulthood, wilderness therapy can be a positive and transformative experience. Through the adventure therapy program at blueFire PulsaR, our clients explore their innermost dreams, fears, and passions. Adventure therapy allows young adults to break out of their comfort zone and try things they never imagined themselves capable of accomplishing. During these out-of-the-box activities, our clients delve into parts of themselves they never thought they would use–or even knew they had. Our clients realize through these activities that they have the power to turn “I can’t” into “I can.”

Throughout their time in nature, young adults have the chance to build important life skills and work towards achieving goals they’d never imagined they could accomplish. Away from the temptations of technology and negative influences back home, clients have the opportunity to look inwards and focus on building the skills that will lead to success back home. 

blueFire PulsaR is also unique in its multifaceted clinical approach. We understand that each young adult has their own unique strengths and needs. Rather than using a one size fits all approach, we combine individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, mindfulness practices, and trauma work. Some young adults may find community and self understanding through group therapy. Other young adults may benefit from strengthening their relationships and communication with their families. Still others may have found the experience of leaving school traumatic, and can learn how to cope with physical or emotional triggers. Unlike other gap year programs, wilderness programs offer a therapeutic element to adventure activities and life skills training. Students emerge after having taken the time to rethink their priorities, cultivate a deeper sense of purpose, and reconnect with their families in adult parent-child relationships.

Launching into adulthood can be intimidating. Many young adults don’t know where to start when they are looking to plan their next steps. We provide career testing and transition planning that helps clients better understand their strengths and interests. Clients will take the GS 120 test to help determine careers or other opportunities that may be a good fit for them. Helping clients develop a plan for the future helps give them the confidence and motivation to continue this momentum going forward.

blueFire PulsaR Can Help 

blueFire PulsaR is a co-educational wilderness therapy program for young adults ages 18-28. This program addresses emotional, social, and behavioral problems in young adults who are considering dropping out or experiencing “failure to launch” syndrome. Adventure therapy, wilderness ventures, equine therapy, academic opportunities and “family spark” are used to help students open up and look at their life. From there they are able to experience growth and adopt healthy self-management skills. 

We help young adults who seek positive change and a jump start towards happiness and success. Many of the individuals we help have struggled in the past with motivation and confidence. blueFire PulsaR combines an adventure therapy program, traditional therapeutic techniques, and transitional living programming to help clients point their lives in a more productive direction. This program is dedicated to helping students regain a better sense of the world around them while addressing their emotions and needs head on.

For more information about gap year programs for college dropouts and struggling young adults, contact us at 1 (844) 413-1999. We can help your family today!

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