While a majority of the graduating class of 2022 will be pursuing higher education at a college or university next year, this transitional period can also be seen as the perfect time to embark on what is known as a gap year. Ian Ward ‘22 is excited to spend a year far from the classroom before beginning his time at university.
For Ward, the idea of taking a gap year was not solidified in his head until recently, although he had thought about it previously.
“It had been brought up here and there over the course of high school,” Ward said. “So I guess it had been in my head for most of high school, but I really only decided that ‘yeah, this is what I’m going to do’ at the beginning of senior year.”
Luckily for Ward, his ambition to take on a gap year was fully supported by the University of Michigan, where he will be attending during the 2023-24 school year.
“They have a form that you fill out online, and it only takes you about five minutes to fill out,” Ward said. “Technically they have to approve it, but as far as I know they’ve basically approved all of them this year.”
During his gap year, Ward hopes to do many things that he would not be able to do if he had decided to go straight to college, including exploring nature through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
“I’m really into backpacking, wilderness, nature and stuff like that,” Ward said. “A while back, maybe even in middle school, I had done some research about NOLS, and it really interested me.”
During his time with NOLS, Ward will be experiencing life away from home, while taking part in activities that he loves.
“With this group, I’ll be going to the Pacific Northwest,” Ward said. “It will be mostly backpacking with a bit of sailing.”
Although Ward will be spending a lot of time doing the activities he loves, the goal of this gap year goes deeper than simply that.
“It’s leadership education, through the lens of outdoor adventure,” Ward said. “You are pretty much backpacking and mountaineering and stuff like that for the entire time.”
Much of Ward’s ambition to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity stems from the idea that there will never be a better year. . This kind of self-care time has been so important to him throughout his life.
“There wouldn’t be a clear opportunity to go do something like this without doing a gap year,” Ward said. “Because as far as I’m concerned, I’m hoping to be employed right after college, so I wanted to go on an adventure.”