Over the past sixteen months, a few friends and I have been working on an idea. The first time we tried it, it didn’t quite work. But starting today, it has another four weeks to fly.
Rather than tell you about our story afterwards, I’m going to share it along the way.
Here’s the idea:
Create a semester-long work/study program that helps college students launch their career earlier while still earning full credit towards their college degree. It’s called Leap Semester.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Isn’t that what internships are for?”
Nope. Internships aren’t fully accredited. A student may earn 3-6 credits. We wanted this program to be a full 15 credits per semester.
“How about study abroad?”
Kinda. Study abroad is fully accredited. But you’re still in a class for the majority of your time.
Both of these experiences can be great. However, we’re curious about students being in the workplace and delivering real work to real companies & organizations, and earning full credit.
Last Summer, our team at Experience Institute and our partners at SAGE Corps ran a prototype without a college partner. It went really well and we knew we were onto something. Then, we struck up a conversation with Columbia College Chicago, a media arts school down the street from our offices.
We worked rigorously to see if we could prototype the program this Spring. We launched in November and had a 2-week window to find ten students. We were on campus nearly every day: in classrooms, in the career center, on sidewalks, etc.
We found students who wanted to participate!
Academia is complex. We learned we hadn’t completed all of the necessary paperwork to run the program together. Also, students couldn’t use financial aid yet.
So we pressed pause and went back to the conference rooms.
The past three months have been packed with meetings, documents, and calls. It’s hard to explain why it was so difficult in a few words, so let’s try an equation:
college leadership + faculty + accrediting bodies + curriculum that will be completed in-person & online + career center + financial aid + travel & housing + companies = OMG
And that’s the shorthand.
More Good News!
As of last week, we have the green light from all parties to try again.
The program is now fully embedded into a college. Students from Columbia College Chicago OR any other higher education program in the country can apply to participate. If they’re accepted, they’ll even be able to use their financial aid to participate in the program (upon receiving confirmation from their institution).
That’s great, right?
It took a long time for us to get to this point. So long that we now have to find a way to find students amidst a busy, noisy end-of-year season. Most college students are in a mad-rush to register for fall classes and figure out summer plans.
Let’s give it a go!
We’ve partnered with the Career Center, the Office of the Provost, our printing partners at Graphic Arts Studio, and a slew of friends to begin spreading the word.
It’s taken a long time and a lot of great people (SAGE Corps, Columbia College Chicago, a group of awesome students, and a few dear friends), but we’re ready to give this a second try.
In any case, I’ll let you know what happens next.
And whatever you’re working on today…if it feels like it didn’t work the first time, it might just need a second try.
Thanks for sharing the journey,