Leadership & Outdoor Adventure Gap Semester

Adventure Treks will not be running its gap semester in fall 2024. Please give us a call at 828-698-0399 to learn about future gap semester programming.

Why take a gap year?

The outcomes of deferring your first year of college and taking an outdoor adventure gap semester have long been studied and continue to produce incredible, tangible benefits for young adults. In a 2020 study by the Gap Year Association, gap year students overwhelmingly reported that their program:

  • Helped them learn how to interact with people from different backgrounds
  • Increased their maturity and academic motivation
  • Improved their self-confidence
  • Gave them a competitive advantage when applying to school or jobs
  • And inspired them to volunteer more, among many other benefits

In a 2015 survey, respondents noted the following as their most significant outcomes from their gap program:

  • Helped them develop as a person
  • Allowed time for personal reflection
  • Helped develop communication skills and a greater understanding for other cultures
  • Helped them acquire skills to be successful in their careers

Worried about academic performance or falling behind? Don’t be. A Middlebury College study showed that students who took a gap year over-performed in college, and that the effect lasted over all four years.

Request a program guide

Fall gap program

  • 14 academic credit hours through Western Carolina University OR up to four courses through Portland State University
  • Activities include backpacking, canoeing, mountain biking, rock climbing, & whitewater kayaking
  • Wilderness first responder course
  • Begins in the United States, then spends the last three weeks in Costa Rica

Why choose Adventure Treks for your gap program?

To be a well-rounded and happy individual, one must possess a wide variety of skills, habits, and character traits; formal college education addresses many, but not all, of these skills people need to be successful. We want to help young people build skills that lead to a more enriching life, and we believe Adventure Treks can provide a different yet equally fulfilling learning adventure.

The Leadership Adventure Semester (LAS) will offer a profound and intensive opportunity to deepen outdoor, interpersonal, and leadership skills. Students will:

  • Gain mastery in outdoor skills like backpacking, mountain biking, mountaineering, rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, and canoeing
  • Take a wilderness first responder medical course and lifeguarding course
  • Participate in local and meaningful service projects
  • Improve essential and pragmatic, hands-on life skills

LAS will emphasize non-cognitive skills like leadership, communication, collaboration, and community-building—skills necessary to succeed in today’s world. These will be woven naturally and intentionally into the entire gap semester as an excellent complement to the higher education experience.

Program goals
  • To offer fun and exciting outdoor adventures that help young people gain life skills and a greater sense of self.
  • To inspire young people to develop a lifelong love of the outdoors and a conservation ethic.
  • To empower young people to create an inclusive and reflective community that maintains a culture of kindness, sense of humor, and spirit of cooperation and volunteerism.

Academic credit

The Leadership Adventure Semester will offer students the opportunity to apply for academic credit through Western Carolina University (WCU) or Portland State University (PSU).

*Students must have graduated high school to earn academic credit. 

More information about each course and how to apply for academic credit

Renowned Adventure Treks communities

Since our inception in 1993, Adventure Treks has become widely known for creating close-knit and supportive communities of young people. In fact, that’s a large reason our student and instructor return rates often exceed 60 percent! Our students establish caring friendships with each other, and these relationships often grow into lifelong connections. Our philosophy and programming encourages students to bring out the best in each other and themselves, and we believe that this strong sense of community is crucial to a young adult’s personal growth. The shared responsibility, spirit of volunteerism, and culture of kindness allows everyone to grow in a positive, clique-free, and respectful environment.

Here’s what some of our former gap semester students had to say about their community:

  • “I have never been happier with a group of once strangers who are now the best friends I’ll ever have.”
  • “Not only does the semester offer great strides in self-growth and knowledge, but it’ll leave you walking away from it with a tight knit community of close friends.”
  • “I made amazing, lifelong friends, and the community was incredible and unique. Everyone was so supportive and willing to lend a hand, be a shoulder to cry on, and just be a great friend.”
  • “I also made so many close bonds—the community is more than a group of people with shared interests… it’s a family. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.”
  • “I did not expect to make as many amazing friends I did. The community exceeded my expectations, and being part of a group of such encouraging and motivated people was really valuable.”
  • “I am confident that the bonds and friendships that I made while at LAS will last a lifetime. The community, and how close it was, was a huge and integral
    part of the experience for me. I really enjoyed the creation of a community from essentially nothing, and seeing how it matured and changed over the course of the semester.”
  • “The community created in this program had so much healthy energy and supportive relationships; the 20 other students in the semester now know me inside and out, and I couldn’t be happier about it. My peers are people I will be friends with for a lifetime.”
  • “In just 74 days, 26 former strangers became some of my closest friends and people to whom I hope to stay connected for life.”
  • “I’ve never been in a community of people who love and support each other as much or as genuinely as the community I found here.”

Click here for LAS student and parent testimonials

Accommodations, locations, & all-inclusive tuition

During our fall semester, students will basecamp in western North Carolina or travel through the Pacific Northwest. Each semester program will spend the last three weeks in Costa Rica.

Adventure Treks gap semester tuition will include the following:

  • All meals and lodging
  • Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, and group gear
  • Technical gear for mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, and kayaking
  • Guided activities
  • Wilderness first responder and swift water rescue courses
  • Travel insurance for Costa Rica

Not included in tuition:

  • Medical and program insurance
  • Personal clothing and gear
  • Tuition and application fees for Western Carolina University or Portland State University
  • Transportation to and from the program, and flight to and from Costa Rica
  • Spending money ($100–$150 recommended)

How to apply

Adventure Treks will not be running its gap semester in fall 2024. Please give us a call at 828-698-0399 to learn about future gap semester programming.

Step 1: Submit an online application.

You’ll complete the initial online application, which requires a parent’s email address to create a username and password; this email and password is how you’ll access the account for all paperwork.

Step 2: Secure your spot with the deposit.

The $3,000 deposit must be made within five days of the initial online application and can be made over the phone with a credit card (plus a 3% bank processing fee), debit card (no processing fee), or checking account (we’ll need the account and routing number).

Step 3: Fill out a detailed application and set up a director interview.

Once we receive the student application and deposit, students will complete a questionnaire, two essays, and health form; submit two professional and/or academic references; and schedule an interview with a director.

Step 4: Official acceptance!

As soon as the entire admissions process is completed, we will notify you as soon as possible regarding your official acceptance into the program.

Apply now

*Terms and conditions, essential eligibility criteria, and student policies for the Leadership Adventure Semester will apply.

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2025 enrollment is now open for returning families! Click here to re-enroll for next summer.