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When college isn’t the only route to success

UnCollege’s 9-month gap year initiative takes students out of the classroom and into the real world.
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When Daniel Moriarty began college last fall, he was already one step ahead of most of his peers. At just 18 years old, he had already answered the nagging question: What do you want to do with your life?

“I was convinced that I wanted to be an architect,” he recalls. “I was so sure about it. It was something I had thought about since the 6th grade.”

With a clear path in his mind, he enrolled at the New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan and began taking the required classes for a major in architectural design. Then, things started to change.

“I was learning about the field in the classroom every single day, swamped with work and all of a sudden, I started to grow distant from something I once had so much passion for,” he explains. “I started to almost hate architecture.”

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It was that epiphany that led him to UnCollege. Designed to give students a chance to direct their own learning rather than be confined by the parameters of their syllabus, the nine-month gap year program begins with a detour to another country.

And while tuition isn’t cheap — the entire program costs $19,000 — the company believes that their end goal makes the price tag entirely worth it.

“We want to help students start thinking about who they are as people and what particular passions they want to pursue,” explains UnCollege’s CEO Charles Taibi. “We want them to have an experience that’s quite outside their comfort zone. It’s really about reflection and taking a step out of what was a very hyper-structured life in high school.”

For Moriarty, that meant packing his luggage and going to Brazil to spend 10 weeks volunteering with a local NGO.

He then traveled back to UnCollege’s headquarters in San Francisco to start learning the basics of adulting as part of the program’s “launch phase.”

“It was almost like the street-smarts for businesses stage. I learned the things I couldn’t really get from a textbook.”

During the 10-week duration, Moriarty learned how to network, cold email, interview and establish an effective personal brand. All of that helped him to secure an internship at the co-working space, Covo.

But the internship —the third and final stage of the program — wasn’t the end for him. His supervisor eventually offered him a position opening up their second location in St. Louis, Missouri. And he didn’t hesitate to accept.

“I figured I might as well take advantage of this time while I can,” explains Moriarty.

“While all of my friends are still in college, this is the time where I can fall, trip and mess up and then pick myself back up and experiment with what I want to do. I’ve still got a lot to learn.”