Cohort 12 - Nick - Hike - Peru

The UnCollege Blog

Capstone Recaps: Madelyn and How Gap Years Teach You to Embrace Uncertainty

After she graduated from high school, Madelyn Hofele, like many other students, felt burnt out. The idea of going to college and taking the next big step towards her future didn’t inspire her at all. She didn’t know what she wanted to do in college, she didn’t know what she ultimately wanted to do with her life, and she didn’t feel comfortable moving forward into such an uncertain future. Madelyn knew she wasn’t ready to pay for and commit to four more years of traditional education. Instead, she started searching for alternatives to going straight to university, a hunt that led her to taking a gap year with UnCollege.

As part of the UnCollege cohort in San Francisco, Madelyn engaged in self-directed learning, giving her the freedom to set her own schedule for exploring her interests. “I was able to focus on the things that I wanted to learn,” Madelyn said. “Because of that, I saw a whole new side of myself.” Madelyn found that she was especially passionate about design-related fields that let her express her creativity. She created a travel photo blog to share photos from her adventures from volunteering in Peru as part of UnCollege, co-created a pitch for an app to help people donate to NGOs, and dove deeper into UX design, digital marketing, and graphic design, developing a diverse skill set that will provide her with a host of benefits throughout her life.

In addition to exploring these areas, Madelyn learned to advocate for herself to ensure that she got the opportunities and resources she needed to continue learning. “I got a new inner confidence in myself,” Madelyn shared. “I wasn’t afraid to reach out to ask for help, self-promote, and really look at myself in a new way.” Developing soft skills like these ensures that Madelyn can fully utilize the hard skills she acquired through self-directed learning and make the most of any role she ends up in.

As her gap year continued to progress, Madelyn became more and more comfortable with accepting uncertainty. Going into the program, Madelyn thought that “I would come out with one direct passion that would lead me for the rest of my life.” Eventually, however, she realized that there was no one thing for her to pursue, and “that’s ok.” Instead, she decided to follow the multiple interests she had discovered during her gap year, trusting that the path they lead her down will be just as good as one guided by a single goal.

The first place Madelyn will follow these interests to is Sunset Magazine, a leading West Coast lifestyle brand, where she will work as a digital media intern over the summer. She’s entering this next phase of her life armed with the life skills and growth mindset she learned at UnCollege, ready to tackle whatever exciting challenges she may face. Madelyn’s self doubt and anxiety, two crippling outcomes of being afraid of uncertainty, have “blown past” her. Because she learned to embrace uncertainty over her gap year, Madelyn now feels that she is “stronger and more confident than I could have ever imagined.”

If you’re interested in taking a gap year like Madelyn, we now run our gap programs under Year On. Visit for more information.