Frequently Asked Questions
Some questions may be answered in the following articles:
- How do I pay for my LEAPYEAR program?
- What can I (or my son/daughter) expect to get from LEAPYEAR?
- Why is LEAPYEAR needed?
- How long has LEAPNOW been around?
- What is the application process for LEAPYEAR?
- Can I get help paying for LEAPNOW programs?
- How do I get college credit for a LEAPNOW program?
- Can I use a LEAPNOW program to complete high school?
- What are the LEAPNOW retreats like?
- Who leads the LEAPNOW trips abroad?
- Do you accept international (non-US) students?
- Can LEAPNOW set up a gap year for me?
- What colleges have LEAPYEAR students gone to, to complete their college education?
- Will my LEAPYEAR credits transfer to my next college?
- How is the second semester internship chosen, and how much structure is provided?
Listen to a 20-minute Podcast about LEAPYEAR and hear LEAPNOW Founder, Sam Bull, interviewed about the program.
How long has LEAPNOW been around?
LEAPNOW was founded in 1994 by Sam Bull as the Western office of the Center for INTERIM Programs. INTERIM, in turn, was founded in 1980 by Sam's father
, Cornelius Bull, who was the first full-time gap year counselor in the United States. The extensive internship database that LEAPNOW and INTERIM share was
conceived in 1977 - and has since grown to over 6,300 options in 126 countries.
LEAPNOW evolved the work of INTERIM by creating group semester programs in 1998, and the LEAPYEAR program in 2001. With roots in the gap year movement, LEAPNOW has been a pioneer in the process of integrating gap year opportunities with academic credit, rites of passage, and an explicit focus on the inner journey - working to serve a need in the development of young adults that isn't met through traditional schooling OR by gap year programs.
As of the Fall of 2014, LEAPNOW is running our 23rd full-year LEAPYEAR group, and we now also run an accredited 2nd year of college which follows LEAPYEAR and is called LEAPYEAR2.
What is the application process?
LEAPNOW attempts to give you as much information about our programs as possible before you apply - so that you can find a good fit with our offerings.
You can familiarize yourself with our programs on our website. Once you've made a choice, please download and carefully read the relevant
Information and Application Packet. Then complete the application and mail or fax it to our office, including the application fee. You will hear from us within a few days
confirming the receipt of your application and to go over the next steps.
Prior to acceptance, the LEAPYEAR program requires an in-person interview at our Northern California campus. Shortly after the interview, you will receive a decision on your appliction. We don't believe in keeping people in limbo, so we attempt to make admissions decisions and notifications quickly.
LEAPYEAR students interested in receiving financial aid can fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) prior to their interview. A financial aid package will be processed after a student is accepted. Read more about the process on How to Pay for LEAPYEAR.
Can I get help paying for LEAPNOW programs?
LEAPYEAR and LEAPYEAR2, being fully accredited years of college, give you access to Federal Financial Aid as well as LEAPNOW and third-party scholarships. As our longest and most expensive program, but also the best supported financially, LEAPYEAR has its own page on this subject: How to pay for LEAPYEAR. For the fall 2013 LEAPYEAR program, ~50% of our students accessed Federal financial aid through the FAFSA process, and received over $100,000 of supplemental grants from LEAPNOW.
How do I get college credit for a LEAPNOW program?
Participants in LEAPYEAR are enrolled Naropa University as full-time undergraduate B.A. students and earn a year of lower division college credit as an integral part of the program.
Can I use a LEAPNOW program to complete high school?
Yes. Some high schools are amenable to facilitating creative ways to earn high school credit. This is quite easy to do through LEAPYEAR, which has a
well-defined college-level curriculum. 1-2 students take advantage of this option each year - bringing life and deep engagement back to their education.
Both of the founders of LEAPNOW graduated high school after their junior years of high school.
If you are considering attending LEAPYEAR, but your home high school is unreceptive, we have a cooperative relationship with a local high school here in northern California that allows for high school completion through LEAPYEAR. Since a full year of college credit is available through LEAPYEAR, many students who haven't completed high school choose to take the GED or High School Equivalency, so that LEAPYEAR can count as their first year of college, rather than their last year of high school. This latter option allows access to Federal Financial Aid for LEAPYEAR.
What are the LEAPNOW retreats like?
Each learning experience has its own content - where you physically are located, and what you are doing. Most programs and educational models focus on content - neglecting the context of learning - which is you, your unique life purpose and this planet we live on. For a learning experience to be truly meaningful it needs to connect with you and your unique context. Each LEAPNOW program has at least four retreats built into them, so that the learner can find the connection between the journey and the context of their own life. Not to build in time for this kind of reflection is both irresponsible and poor program design. It is vital to have time in the U.S. before and after traveling in order to be able to learn to travel safely, and to get the most out of your travels prior to returning to your familiar home environment. All retreats are held at our rural campus in Calistoga, California, which we call "Maacama" after the creek that runs through our property. LEAPNOW staff and faculty run the retreats and the retreats are designed to provide you with a chance to:
- meet your group and leaders,
- get oriented to another culture before traveling,
- focus on your unique inner journey,
- harvest what you have learned after traveling,
- limit reverse culture shock in the U.S.,
- prepare you to return home after a dramatic journey,
all without the pressure of having to do these tasks while dealing with the challenges of another culture. While on retreat, students are provided with delicious natural food and stay in rustic but comfortable bunkhouses. Photos of the LEAPNOW campus can be seen on our Facebook page or on our campus page.
Who leads the LEAPNOW trips abroad?
LEAPNOW hires leaders each year to lead the first semester of LEAPYEAR (the group travel in India and Latin America). We select these ~10 leaders from an annual pool of over 150 applicants. We hire experienced leaders with a minimum age of 25. These include returned Peace Corps volunteers, AmeriCorps leaders, and people who have led for other international education organizations. Each of them has direct experience in the country and region we ask them to lead in, extensive group leading experience, and functional language fluency if needed. Each of our leaders are trained in Wilderness First Aid, and many hold superior qualifications. All LEAPNOW leaders receive a very thorough and intensive ten-day leader training from LEAPNOW to augment past experience and training.
Do you accept international (non-US) students?
Yes, we accept international students into all of our programs. However, participants will need to take care of any necessary visa work, and are not eligable for US Federal Financial Aid. Remember, in-person interviews are required for LEAPYEAR and program retreats at our California campus are not optional. Past LEAPYEAR students have come from Japan, Eritrea, Honduras, Singapore, India, Switzerland, Guatemala, Ecuador, Canada, Mexico, England and Iran.
Can LEAPNOW set up a gap year for me?
Yes. Our LEAPYEAR program is designed to give you everything that a gap year should: guided group travel, powerful rites of passage, a customizable
3-month internship, an amazing community of fellow travelers, and support and mentoring throughout.
We don't believe that our programs are a perfect fit for everyone - but they are utterly unique learning offerings and may just provide the broad spectrum of activities and structure that you need.
What colleges have LEAPYEAR students gone to, to complete their college education?
Most LEAPYEAR graduates continue on to complete undergraduate study after LEAPYEAR. A partial list of the colleges that LEAPYEAR graduates have gone on to follows:
- Antioch University - Seattle
- Ball State University
- Bard College
- Belmont University
- Brandeis University
- California College of the Arts
- California State University - Chico
- Catholic University
- Clark College
- College of Charleston (South Carolina)
- College of the Atlantic
- Colorado College
- Davidson College
- DePaul University
- Elon University
- Eugene Lang College
- Evergreen State University
- Gaia University
- Geneseo State University of New York
- Georgetown University
- Global College - Long Island University
- Goddard College
- Goucher College
- Green Mountain College
- Guilford College
- Hampshire College
- Hunter College - CUNY
- Indiana University
- Lehigh University
- Lewis & Clark University
- Lesley University
- Loyola Marymount University
- Mills College
- McGill University - Montreal, Canada
- Middlebury College
- Murray State University
- Naropa University
- Newbury College - MA
- Occidental College
- Portland State University
- Prescott College
- Quest University Canada - Squamish, BC
- Reed College
- Rutgers University
- Samuel Merritt University
- Scripps University
- Seattle University
- Simmons College
- Smith College
- Southern Oregon University
- Stanford University
- St. Edwards University - Austin, TX
- Swarthmore College
- Texas Tech University
- Trinity College
- University of Alaska
- University of Arizona
- University of California - Santa Cruz
- University of Colorado - Boulder
- University of Delaware
- University of Georgia
- University of Illinois
- University of Massachusetts - Amherst
- University of Michigan
- University of Oklahoma
- University of Redlands
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Vermont
- University of Washington
- University of Western Oregon
- University of Wisconsin - Madison
- University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
- Vassar University
- Warren Wilson College
- Weber State University - Utah
- Wesleyan University
- Western Washington University
- Willamette University and many more....
The following are links to colleges whose philosophy or method of learning are particularly in line with LEAPYEAR - i.e., that have an experiential, alternative, contemplative or international focus. Since LEAPYEAR students learn to direct their own learning, they tend to be happiest after LEAPYEAR when they attend a college whose learning style is student-directed and interdisciplinary. These colleges also tend to be very happy to enroll LEAPYEAR graduates, since they come in with a clearer sense of their purpose, greater maturity, and a greater ability to direct their own learning.
- Naropa University - The university that is most in line with the LEAPYEAR curriculum. Naropa is a Buddhist-inspired, student-centered liberal arts university in Boulder, Colorado. A recognized leader in contemplative education, Naropa's undergraduate and graduate programs emphasize professional and personal growth, intellectual development, and contemplative practice.
- College of the Atlantic (COA) - A small college in Maine focused on human ecology, sustainability, natural sciences & the environment. COA thinks so much of LEAPYEAR that they give a $10,000 per year scholarship to LEAPYEAR graduates that are accepted for admission for up to 4 years.
- Quest University Canada - a new university founded in 2005, located just north of Vancouver, B.C. The first two years are a foundational curriculum with 16 six week blocks. The last two years are formed around a question that each student identifies to direct the remainder of their study. Very engaged and engaging curriculum and student body. Quest University guarantees the transfer of LEAPYEAR credits, and offers a $5,000 per year scholarship to LEAPYEAR graduates.
- University of Redlands - Johnston Center for Integrative Studies - A residential community within the U. of Redlands within which students design their own majors and write contracts for courses. Located near Los Angeles.
- Warren Wilson College - A small college in Asheville, North Carolina focused on changing the world. Students find a balance between academics, service and work. Strong environmental and sustainability focus. Fairhaven College at Western Washington University - an interdisciplinary college within Western Washington U. where students design their studies and evaluation process - focus on the development of leadership.
- Prescott College - an experiential and self-directed interdisciplinary curriculum in the Arizona desert.
- Global College (formerly Friends World Program ) - An internationally focused college with campuses in Costa Rica, China, India, Japan, South Africa, Australia and New York City.
- The New School - a progressive university in NYC focused on social change - 8 colleges with diverse emphases - theater, social research, urban policy, design and music.
- Eugene Lang College - A progressive interdisciplinary college in New York City - student-directed curriculum - part of the New School.
- Green Mountain College - A small liberal arts college in Vermont that focuses on environmental sustainability.
- Hampshire College - A small liberal college in Massachusetts specializing in self-designed majors. It is known for facilitating the study of film, music, theatre and the visual arts.
Looking for a college that will change your life? Check out the Colleges That Change Lives website: http://www.ctcl.org/ Based on a book by the same name, this website lists 40 schools that have characteristics that enrich and empower students, year after year, generation after generation. These are schools where:
- learning is collaborative, not competitive
- there is a discussion of values in the classrooms and elsewhere on campus
- there is a sense of community and connection that goes well beyond 4 years of attendance
- students are there to learn, not to just get a degree
- students want to tell the story about how the college has changed them
- admission is holistic and the focus campus-wide is on the transformation that takes place between orientation and graduation, rather than on the accomplishment of admitted students
Some LEAPYEAR program graduates have continued working and traveling abroad prior to continuing their college studies. These students have studied with artists and artisans throughout Asia, have worked with a circus, lived and worked at intentional communities, and more.
Will my LEAPYEAR credits transfer to my next college?
LEAPYEAR credits have transferred to the broad and representative range of colleges on the list above. The LEAPYEAR groups beginning in fall 2014 will be the 23rd and 24th full year cycles of the program, and the curriculum has been thoroughly reviewed by two regional accrediting institutions (WASC & NCA), and LEAPYEAR students are enrolled as full-time students at Naropa University. That said, it is always at the discretion of the institution accepting you for admission whether they choose to accept any credits. If you are considering a college that is not on the list above, the only way to definitively know whether credits will be accepted, is to ask their admissions office. To support you in this inquiry, our office can provide you with LEAPYEAR course descriptions and syllabi, and you can have your desired college admissions office pre-review these materials to determine the exact number of LEAPYEAR credits they will accept. In this way, you won't have any risk that your credits won't be accepted.
How is the second semester internship chosen, and how much structure is provided?
The internship selection/placement process consists of the following systematic steps:
- During the months prior to the start of LEAPYEAR, students are provided with a representative list of over 100 internship possibilities to get an idea of the broad spectrum of what may be available to them.
- During the first week of the program, our Executive Director introduces the range of internship possibilities to the full group.
- This is followed by one-on-one meetings between each individual student, our internship placement specialists, and our Executive Director.
- Our internship specialists then dialogue with each student during the fall semester to decide upon the specific internship that a student wants to do.
- We follow up during the second retreat on a one-on-one basis to ground and land the internship.
- Additional follow-up happens during the mid-program break to help those having trouble deciding among the myriad choices available to them.
LEAPNOW has been sending individual students abroad since 1994, and has made over 1500 internship placements - all of whom have come home safely. The solo internship is designed to be a structured educational experience, and as such students are placed with organizations doing social service, educational, environmental, arts and crafts, medical, outdoor recreation, and public health work.
The primary support for each student is their in-country program sponsor, who is responsible for picking them up at the airport, getting them oriented, providing further training as needed, and looking out for their well-being during their three-month internship
Each student is also required to communicate weekly with the LEAPNOW office and their group members by through a Google group, and relates directly in their country of choice with a program sponsor.
Every students carries a laminated card with LEAPNOW's 24-hour emergency phone line as well as office numbers, and key in-country numbers such as the nearest US consulate.
Please Contact Us.
- Lillian Smith