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Vanguard: The Christian Gap Year of Wheaton College

Hear From Vanguards

Explore Your Calling with a Gap Year

Vanguard is the gap year program of Wheaton College for 17-19-year-olds seeking more than the status quo in their higher-education experience.

Build a vision for the future by bridging the gap between high school and college with a year unlike any other. You'll explore diverse cultures, navigate life's big questions, and live in a Christ-centered community. This year of hands-on education and leadership development will prepare you for the challenges of college and beyond.

Why a gap year?

Vanguard looks over Lake Superior during a backpacking trip

Dan Jones '16

"In addition to growing spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, I wanted to confirm God’s calling for me to enter fire service."

Vanguard at Northwoods fair smiling at camera

Tim Clark '17

"I’ve built meaningful relationships, broadened my global Christian perspective, learned more about relating to others, and formed a firm foundation in my faith – I have a wider sense of how God can work through me."

Vanguard stands in front of wood pile, smiling

Katherine Lehn '17

"I grew up a lot during Vanguard, I grew into a faith and a way of being in relationships with people that has entirely changed who I am."


A Christian Gap Year in a Camp Environment

Vanguard takes place at HoneyRock, the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College. We leverage the camp environment to develop young adults into rooted, courageous, and humble leaders.

HoneyRock is located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in the Nicolet National Forest on a chain of 28 lakes. It has over 900 acres of facilities and resources for activities, learning, and adventure. Since 1951, HoneyRock - owned and operated by Wheaton College - has provided college preparation, leadership development, and spiritual formation for youth and young adults. 

A Parent's Perspective on the Vanguard Gap Year

In the end, what we loved most about the Vanguard experience is the way that it helped our daughter discern her calling. The Vanguard Gap Year’s international immersion trip to the Dominican Republic was truly life changing for Julianna. For years, she’d dreamt of becoming a missionary in a Spanish speaking country, and this trip was perfect for exploring that desire. The day after she returned, she Skyped us saying that although she loved every minute in the DR, she felt God showing her that He wanted her elsewhere. 

Julianna realized she wanted to teach in a Spanish speaking environment here in the United States, in an inner city or otherwise underprivileged area. She will graduate in 2020 from Hope College with a degree in Spanish education, and she could not be happier.

When asked if the Vanguard Gap Year was worth it, our answer is a wholehearted “yes!” Julianna made lifelong friends. She had time and space to relax, reflect, pray, work, deepen her faith and think about her future—all away from the pressures of "regular" life. She learned new skills in cooking and carpentry. She studied her Bible every day alongside her friends. She shared life with a wonderful group of people, including her fellow Vanguards, their amazing counselors and all of the staff at HoneyRock.

- Annette Burlet, mom of Julianna VG '15

Our situation was unique in that Adam first went to college. While at college, he didn’t find a good fit and stepped back to re-evaluate. Vanguard was wonderful for Adam because it gave him time to grow; both in faith and in maturity. He enjoyed working, serving, and adventuring during his time in the Northwoods. He found a passion for sharing Christ, teaching people about God’s creation, and being present in relationships.

We like to say he found both “a passion and a program” during Vanguard. Our son was provided space to discern what he wanted to study in college and apply to his career: Outdoor Leadership at John Brown University.

A Christian gap year program like Vanguard helps young adults grow their faith, develop good habits, learn the importance of Christian community, and build relationships with role models who speak truth. If your student does not feel confident about going to college due to social, vocational, or motivational reasons, we recommend Vanguard!

- Ann Kepke, mom of Adam VG '16

As much as my wife and I loved our daughter, she just wasn't going to get the message she needed by living with us any longer. Going to HoneyRock and having a trusted group of people that we could turn our daughter to for a year, under the Lord's care, was a great blessing to me as a parent and I am so thankful this option was available. I saw other kids who came in more solid in their faith, and I think in the Lord's sovereignty and providence, He met every one of them with just what they needed to mature through the year for the next phase of their life. 

As far as the cost is concerned, for me, it saved my daughter's life. What price do I put on that? I have a debt I will never repay to the Vanguard program, and I will tell our daughter’s story for the rest of my life. For a kid fresh out of high school who isn't sure about a lot of things, Vanguard is just a phenomenal place to spend a year. If a student knows what they want to do in college, and has it all laid out, then that's fine, they can go ahead with that. But if a kid isn't sure about some things, wants to do something productive, wants to have some good fun and good learning, both contributing and growing themselves, I think this is a fantastic option.

- Vanguard Parent '16

vanguards on log pile in northwoods wi
Interested in Vanguard?

Sign up and stay in the loop! Hear from our leadership, read stories from past Vanguards, and learn about unique distinctives Vanguard offers high school graduates. 

A Peek Into Vanguard Life

Our liberal arts approach sets us apart from any other program. When looking at other gap years, you'll notice how programs tend to build their year around a primary theme: community service, travel, work, or earning college credits. Don't get us wrong - these are all good things! That's why at Vanguard, we weave them together in an unparalleled experience that will launch Vanguards into college.

Play the videos below to hear Vanguards share their experience:

Cultural Immersion

Community Life

Inquiry-Led Learning

Faith Formation

Work Rotations

Winter in the Northwoods



What are you thinking?

Questions are good! You'll find a few ways to get more information, below. 

  • Check out our "Read the Research" page - we've collected a variety of articles for you!
  • Connect with Charlie Goeke, Vanguard Program Manager - email him to have a one on one conversation.

If you would rather email us for more info, use the link below to connect.

That's awesome! We're excited to continue the conversation - use the link below to apply.

That's okay, too. While the benefits of a gap year are numerous, it's not the right fit for everyone. Have you heard of Wheaton College?