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Vanguard Gap Year
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Vanguard Gap Year
learning at HoneyRock
Vanguard Gap Year

Vanguard Gap Year

The Christian Gap Year of Wheaton College

For high school graduates seeking more than the status quo in their higher-education experience.

95%
continue to college after Vanguard
11K
for 8 college credits, room & board, 3 cultural immersion trips, and more!
0%
chance you'll get bored

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.

vanguard lays on dock with camera

It's simple!

Request info to hear from Vanguard leadership and meet Vanguards. 

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chrouser lawn at HoneyRock
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. 

What kind of students are Vanguard students?

Vanguard students are some of the most curious students affiliated with our college and dare we say some of the most curious students of all Christian gap year programs. Beyond curious, Vanguards are outdoorsy and faithful. They are ready for a healthy challenge and have a desire to grow. Whether they’re academically-apt or trade-minded, outdoor experts or entry-level hobbyists, questioning or firm in their faith, Vanguards are ambitious young adults. Our program helps them envision where they want to go and plan the route to get there.

At Wheaton College, we’ve created a Christ-centered, collaborative, and immersive environment for thinkers just like you to ask and explore big questions.      

Our program is structured in such a way as to help us better understand God’s truth, our purpose, and how we should live in light of the Great Commission.


Now you know what kind of people Vanguards are: They’re curious and introspective. They’re active learners, committed to self-discovery through immersion in diverse experiences. And above all—Vanguards carve their own path; our gap year opportunity simply gives Vanguards the tools for carving.

So let’s take a look at gap year options generally—and then Wheaton College’s option—so you and your family can make the best-informed decision.


Vanguard Gap Year Questions and Answers

That's a great question! We've done our best to wrangle the year into a simple "at a glance" grid. Then, we took it a step farther and created an average week/day in the life. Use the links below to check it out. 

Whether you've recently graduated from high school or are a year or two into college, we welcome your application! Generally, Vanguards are 17-20 years old. Most are recent high school graduates, but every year we have one or two students who spent a semester or two at college.

We firmly believe a gap year can benefit any student who’s curious and ready for a healthy challenge. However, we've also provided a few questions below to help you consider whether a gap year is a needed path for you.

  • Is there excitement about the college options and/or selection? The major?
  • Is there a feeling of academic burnout?
  • Is there the responsibility, maturity, and judgment needed to make a solid return on the college investment?
  • Is there an intrinsic desire to grow in their faith?
  • Is there solid support system of both peers and mentors to walk with them through the ups and downs of college and life?
  • Will faith flourish outside of their home environment?

Vanguards are outdoorsy, curious, and faithful. They're ready for a healthy challenge and have a desire to grow. Whether they’re academically-apt or trade-minded, outdoor expert or entry-level, questioning or firm in their faith, Vanguard helps young adults envision where they want to go, and plan the route to get there.

About 30% of Vanguards continue to Wheaton College and complete their studies in four years. Nearly 40% of our alumni continue to on to a variety of higher education institutions—private, public, Christian, secular. It's a mix! The remaining 10% decide that entering the workforce and/or attending a community college is the best route for them.

Ultimately, we're helping students discover their purpose and find the best fit next step. For some, it's Wheaton College. For other students, it's another school or path altogether. While our ideal students are set on or seriously considering college, some find that it's not the right fit.  

Yes! Starting with the Fall 2020 Vanguard cohort, those who successfully complete the program are granted automatic admission to Wheaton College the semester immediately following their Vanguard year.

We realize a gap year is often an unanticipated "extra" in the higher education decision. Finding affordable gap year programs is at the top of most people's listif this is you, you're not alone!

Any student can get the cost of Vanguard down to $11,000 through fundraising, a matching scholarship, and working at HoneyRock during the summer immediately following their gap year. The cost of the program covers room and board, 8 transferrable college credits, and all program trips and activities.

If the opportunities to decrease the cost of Vanguard aren't taken advantage of, the cost of the program is $18,300.

Applications to Vanguard are accepted on a rolling basis. If your application is completed before April 1, your decision deadline is May 1. If you apply after April 1 and are accepted to Vanguard, you will have one month to accept your offer and pay the deposit.

If you were invited to interview for Vanguard from Wheaton's waitlist, you will have one month from the time you receive confirmation of admission to accept your offer and pay the deposit.

Vanguard Reviews: What Parents Have to Say

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

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

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

Vanguard Emily smiles

March 26 Webinar

Join us this March 26 to learn more about Vanguard from Program Director, Charlie Goeke.

Sign Up for the Webinar
vanguard adam hiking happily
Adam Kepke '17
Taking a break from school gave me the space I needed to decide to actually return to school when I didn’t think it was for me. I was able to take an intermission to just figure out if I wanted to go back and what I wanted to study. Since going back to college, I’ve discovered that once you know what you want to study, school becomes a lot easier and a lot more purposeful.
vanguard allie smiling
Meet Allie '19
I knew that I didn’t really have a relationship with God. If I went to college and wasn’t 100% sure of my faith, I knew that I would just drop it. It was important for me to figure it out.
brian working at honeyrock
Meet Brian '19
I think if I went straight to school I would have continued to not care about my personal health and wellness. There was a huge growth in relational and spiritual maturity which helped me determine how I want to live my life…what drives me and what motivates me. I couldn’t have easily gone into college and done well, or if I did, it would have come at the cost of not continuing to live a healthy lifestyle, not being rested.
chan smiles at the camera
Chanyoung Woo '18
Vanguard
I mean, I’m going to be lifelong friends with the people I met here. The experiences you get here…I don’t think you’ll ever get another chance to do anything like this in your life.
vanguard adam hiking happily
Adam Kepke '17
Taking a break from school gave me the space I needed to decide to actually return to school when I didn’t think it was for me. I was able to take an intermission to just figure out if I wanted to go back and what I wanted to study. Since going back to college, I’ve discovered that once you know what you want to study, school becomes a lot easier and a lot more purposeful.
vanguard allie smiling
Meet Allie '19
I knew that I didn’t really have a relationship with God. If I went to college and wasn’t 100% sure of my faith, I knew that I would just drop it. It was important for me to figure it out.
brian working at honeyrock
Meet Brian '19
I think if I went straight to school I would have continued to not care about my personal health and wellness. There was a huge growth in relational and spiritual maturity which helped me determine how I want to live my life…what drives me and what motivates me. I couldn’t have easily gone into college and done well, or if I did, it would have come at the cost of not continuing to live a healthy lifestyle, not being rested.
chan smiles at the camera
Chanyoung Woo '18
Vanguard
I mean, I’m going to be lifelong friends with the people I met here. The experiences you get here…I don’t think you’ll ever get another chance to do anything like this in your life.