When Nick Lenz was in high school, he struggled to figure out what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go for the next phase of his life. As college application season approached, he knew he didn’t want to follow the majority of his peers to a university campus next fall. He decided to look for alternative options instead, and eventually found UnCollege. Though he was unsure of what to expect from taking a gap year, he soon realized that it was the perfect way to find his direction.
Throughout middle and high school, Nick had tried out many activities that he thought he might develop a passion for. He did boy scouts, basketball, golf, running, mountain biking, and worked for his middle school newspaper. He tried playing the guitar, saxophone, and video games. He devoted spare time to art, comic books, and reading. At one point, he attempted to found a business called Kick’s Coffee Company. After a while, however, Nick always got bored with these pursuits, and would quickly move on to the next thing he wanted to experience.
Reflecting on his interests, Nick had realized that the only thing he knew he could do “for hours on end, nonstop” was watching YouTube videos. So, in 2016, while he was still in high school, he decided that making videos would be his next project. But by the time Nick enrolled in UnCollege in the fall of 2017, he still hadn’t made a single video. To make matters worse, his girlfriend had broken up with him and his grandma had just passed away, even further detracting from his motivation. “I was in a rut,” he remembered. “I really didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to do anything.”
But once he got to UnCollege, Nick said, everything “ended up being ok, because the next two and a half months were probably the most reflective period in my entire life.” While volunteering in Peru with other UnCollege fellows, Nick had time to work on his videos and not let any of the distractions or discouragements he’d faced in high school get in his way.
Instead of getting bored with making videos as time went on, Nick’s enthusiasm for creating them increased. When he came to San Francisco, he realized that he wants to become a filmmaker, placing him among the majority of individuals who say that taking a gap year impacted their career plans. “That was something I was passionate about,” Nick said, “something I could see myself doing in the future.” He started to search for opportunities and fill out internship applications.
Soon, however, he realized how difficult it was to break into the film industry without some sort of formal education. “That [frustrated me], because I hate college,” Nick recalled. “I hate the idea of college [for myself].” Nick was frustrated, but UnCollege connected him with a mentor who helped him lay out an alternative path for achieving his goal. With his mentor’s guidance, Nick realized that he would be really good at film production. He decided to focus all of the skills he’d learned through UnCollege on starting a film production company, SunLenz Productions. As his gap year comes to a close and Nick prepares to devote the next stage of his life to building up his company, he’s realized that “I’ve never been more happy and ambitious than I am right now.”
If you’re interested in taking a gap year like Nick, we now run our gap programs under Year On. Visit yearon.com for more information.