At the end of the Semester Off experience, students are asked to evaluate frankly their overall experience, the quality of each of the components of our curriculum, and their relationships with our staff. Our students are aware that we only read these after they have left on the final day, so they may feel safe saying whatever is on their mind. Below is a sampling of student responses.

I felt the program did what it set out to do for me, even if I decide not to go back to college immediately. I feel I am more prepared to return to college now in the future, and that what I learned in this program will be part of what leads me to success. I still have a long way to go, and many things to learn about myself, but I have taken the first big step on that pathway. I can’t say it’s been without bumps, but if it were that way in the first place, there would have been no point. Thanks for everything.

I thought it was overall pretty great — instructors were kind and helpful.

As a student, there were many times that I felt a small pressure to work as hard as the Semester Off staff was working. I really do like your approach to students as you view us as people with responsibilities not only to ourselves but to you and the group as well. As far as I know, there is no such group program that has this subtle characteristic, and I think it’s a huge strength. It lets people play out their lives in a “safe” environment where otherwise we never could. While I was in college, I never felt anything close to this experience.

I am really impressed with Semester Off, and after going through it, I hope that the program grows and that its framework transcends to other places.

Semester Off is a program that ignites the natural spark that a person already knew was there. It doesn’t just help people get better, it encourages them to pursue a way of life that they want to live. It gives people strength when they feel that they have none. It’s a space that feels completely organic, stripping away a distancing feeling of bureaucracy that so many other facilities have. All of this boils down to a place that resembles the training ground for life, and by the end, students should feel capable of making their own decisions and acting upon them (Yes, you can quote me if you want).
So, I just wanted to thank you guys for doing the thing that I came in here convinced was impossible.

I’m surprised that Semester Off is such a new institution… I’m quite impressed with what it had to offer. The objective is very well thought out, the staff are pretty well intentioned and very nurturing/comforting, which is HUGE for a program like this. SO!!

I SO!!

I’m really glad I decided to do SO.

I came into Semester Off in a really bad place. I had taken a year off right after high school and then gone to college for a year and was in the middle of my second year away from college after encountering some difficulties. While there were times that things got difficult, that is exactly what this program is about. It is about getting out of your comfort zone and it is about change. I am not the person who walked in the door on the first day at the end of January, and I am so glad. This program changed me in so many ways and I will forever be thankful to it. I have made amazing friends and they will probably be friends I have for most of my life. I’m headed back to school this fall and I know I can succeed because of Semester Off. I don’t know what I would have done without Semester Off. Anyone who is taking some time away from college should consider this program. You just might end up finding yourself. (Hi Ilan, Brittany, and Sarah! Miss you!)

In the months following Semester Off, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to reflect upon my time there and what I got out of the experience. At first it was tough to see how it affected me because I wasn’t in an academic environment. Once I started work at a job to make money before returning to school however, it became very clear that the things taught to me at SO we’re alive and well. As anyone who has worked in the restaurant business can tell you, it can get very hectic and very stressful, very, very fast. When situations such as these would arise, I would recall images and moments from Semester Off like “staying in the present moment” or “take inventory and assess the situation before acting”. It became very clear to me that the things I learned in the Fall were sticking with me in my everyday life, even outside of the classroom. This is arguably the most beneficial achievement from the program because it puts me in a healthier state of mind at all times of day. Now, I’m ready and eager to jump back into my studies in college. I hope that should the situation arrive when I need help or some advice, I can reach out to my friends at Semester Off for some guidance.

After I completed my first semester at college I had to come home on a medical leave. I was in a scary place emotionally and I found my self at semester off for the next semester. Semester not only saved me, but it saved my family. Since semester off my family has been more united, compassionate and understanding towards each other. I will forever be grateful that I was able to participate in semester off. I now feel confident that I will succeed in life no mater what I do! I owe this organization my life and all of my happiness. Thank you Ilan, Brittany and Sarah for giving me a new chance at life!

I liked the creative/interactive types of meditation we did.

It was interesting to practice meditation and watch how I improved over the semester.

I wish there was a way we could’ve done more yoga. Brittany was an awesome yoga teacher and really found a way to cater to everyone’s different abilities.

Yoga and Guided Meditation opened my mind and helped me be less stressed. I learned that I like yoga! It also helps with my flexibility.

All meditation and relaxation techniques were of significant value; they were enjoyable, challenging, and helpful. I plan to continue using these things I learned in my daily life…. particularly the yoga.

Practicing yoga was incredibly effective at helping me learn how to focus my mind and energy, which ultimately enabled me to handle my anxiety better than I ever had before. Brittany’s mantras were powerful throughout the semester, and I found myself repeating them often.

I found CBT Workshop to be beneficial in giving us time to think about the contents of our minds and the tools to change our thought processes for the better.

CBT Workshop helped me figure out what was happening when I was at college and helped me challenge my own thoughts when I was down.

The CBT Workshop is the main log in the dam, the alternating switch board, the lake to the aquifer that is Semester Off. It’s the glue that holds together all subjects, and connects them deeply to one another. Small perspective-shifting can be life-altering.

I found our discussions in Cross-Cultural Studies engaging and thought-provoking. Sometimes, my point of view was challenged in ways I hadn’t thought of before. I felt this time widened my viewpoint on the world.

The best part about Cross-Cultural Studies, for me, was the way it helped us evaluate our identities and find out what was most important and integral to our being. The subculture presentations were also great practice and a great way for us to learn about each other.

Each Reflections session felt meaningful.

Reflections was definitely one of the most important aspects of Semester Off. I felt comfortable running my feelings by the group and getting feedback.

I appreciated how Reflections encouraged me to become a better communicator, especially with my feelings. Having a support group gave me confidence and there was always helpful feedback.

The Reflections block and where it stands is often a portrayal of where the group and session is as a whole. It’s a perfect sample on a 1:1 scale of where and how everyone is or how far they’ve come. It seems fairly awful at first. It’s about clearing your mind to others and letting others analyze and help you with your own introspection.

Reflections was probably one of my favorite blocks. I just really like hanging out and talking – discussing things, even if they are difficult topics.

I did get a lot out of the Community Service experience, and I liked that you let us choose where we wanted to work instead of forcing us to go to one place. I felt I’ve grown as a person in terms of responsibility since I started going to [her community service placement].

I really enjoyed going to [community service option], and I hope to continue going even after the semester is over.

I found that Group Team-Building strengthened our teamwork and forced us to collaborate in a way we hadn’t before — I found that worthwhile.

I liked how Group Team-Building gave us the opportunity to bond with each other. It was both worthwhile and memorable embracing the opportunity to go outside my comfort zone and was significant to me. These sessions were helpful in us becoming more comfortable and trusting in each other. Group study sessions were very helpful in my understanding of many concepts.

I found Healthy Body, Healthy Mind to be particularly insightful in teaching us techniques for healthy living.

One of my favorite parts of the Semester Off experience was Finding a Career. I found the career counselor, the graphic designer, and the author we met with incredibly interesting.

I felt meeting with the career counselor was really quite helpful in helping me figure out what I want to do, as well as opening my eyes to other career choices and paths.

Even though I have already chosen a career path, learning my personal strengths in Finding a Career have helped me to understand myself better and if I change my path, I know what other opportunities are good for me.

Group Exercise helped me get active and work out instead of being lazy and doing nothing productive.

I was never a huge fan of Group Exercise, but it was bearable and I recognized the benefits of it. The flexibility Kerry allowed in only pushing yourself as far as you were comfortable was quite nice and I really appreciated that.

I found it valuable to exercise and move my body every morning.

I knew going in that I probably wasn’t going to love the Group Exercise blocks, and I was pretty much right. That being said, I did enjoy kickboxing a lot more than I thought I was going to.

How to Succeed in College was overall a great course, useful for improving skills I struggled with.

How to Succeed in College gave me the tools to succeed in college courses. Using their strategies when returning to college will result in getting assignments completed on time, showing up to class, self-confidence and good grades.

I really like the How to Succeed in College class a lot and I learned a lot of good skills and things I could definitely apply if I put the work in.

General Psychology was enjoyable, particularly the philosophy and “non-sciency” material, but I understand how important the neuroscience was to the class.

General Psychology did a fantastic job simulating a college course and bringing in lessons from other areas/blocks, as well. I really did like the work and the readings, despite struggling sometimes just to turn them in and sometimes even to start.

I liked all of the topics we covered in General Psychology.

I enjoyed working with different materials in Creative Expressions and portraying particular concepts. Using things like watercolor, acrylics, colored pencil, and different canvases like masks, painting paper, etc… It was a calming part of the program.

Kate was incredibly helpful in helping me plan and execute strategies to make essay writing a significantly less stressful experience. She is very approachable and I found the process of reviewing my papers with her to be not at all intimidating.

Kate understands not liking to write. She approaches this with a great attitude. She is great at making the writing process seem more manageable.

I truly thought Kate was one of the best parts of the program. What an easy/friendly person to work with. Definitely knows what she’s talking about.

Kate is the best and I loved working with her! I have no complaints. I really enjoyed working with her because she’s able to understand what your thought process is and really understands what’s giving you trouble,
even without you needing to say it, which can be hard for some of us.

Brittany has so much energy and enthusiasm, and it’s been a pleasure to learn from her. She has a wealth of wisdom, and her words will stay with me throughout my life. I envy her ability to stay calm, focused, and present. I’ve continually tried to emulate her accepting, unjudging nature. … I hope Brittany’s voice will continue to guide me through the challenges that are to come.

Brittany is very kind and very helpful. Her enthusiasm for yoga and kick-boxing is off the charts. She always pushed me to keep going even though I wanted to give up. Hey, maybe that’s a metaphor.

Brittany has been a consistent support throughout my time here. Many of her teachings helped me develop a better sense of self and to become more balanced. She was a great role model to me with her positive attitude, dedication to exercising and using healthy routines. I thank you Brittany from the bottom of my heart.

Kerry was fabulous. She was constantly supportive and I always felt like I could talk with her about what was on my mind. I loved that she generally tried to stay neutral when there was conflict…. it made my voice seem valued.

Kerry was amazing. 10/10 Kerry best Semester Off teacher. Not only was she helpful in an academic and professional way, but I also really appreciated how she just felt like part of the group sometimes, like when she played games with us and stuff. I really appreciate all she did for me and the program. Thank you to her for making this truly special.

Kerry’s really good at positive reinforcement. She is able to make us feel heard and understood.

Liz was perfect for what she did, everything from her music to her guided meditations to the yoga poses and her passion about yoga.

Ilan is clearly dedicated to the program. He has put together a strong set of activities and classes (from Yoga and Guided meditation to How to Succeed in College) that explore healthy thought from a bunch of angles.

I want to thank Ilan for everything that he has given to this program – the effort really shows.

Ilan is a great guy, good intentions.

Ilan was great. He was harsh, but fair. I felt he had a clear vision and did his best to follow through on it.

First off, I want to say that I really think you have a good thing going. The idea of Semester Off is really good and Ilan, you really do care about all of us, which feels good and makes it more comfortable. Overall, I think Ilan’s style of confronting problems head on and with no BS is really effective.

Semester Off would not be possible without Ilan’s passion for this program and for helping others, and I will be eternally thankful for it. He is an incredible teacher, able to make challenging material accessible and enjoyable for everyone, and his class, Perspectives on the Mind and the Brain, struck a perfect balance between being academic and also engaging. Although we clashed a little bit earlier in the semester, by the end of the program, I personally felt that I had a very healthy relationship with him.

Ilan made a fantastic decision when he started Semester Off. It doesn’t feel like we are only the 3rd or 4th group to have come through here. He knows how to challenge people to grow, and the platform that has been established feels very stable.

As our family begins the count down to sending our daughter, Kate, back to college, it is a wonderful time to reflect on our very positive experience with Semester Off. Kate attended Semester Off in January – May 2016 after her first semester at college. She was very excited to attend college and did extremely well academically. Unfortunately, she was intensely challenged by her anxiety and a school culture that conflicted with her personal values (too much drinking, use of drugs and indiscriminate sex). She withdrew socially and by the time we were all together for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, my husband and I knew we had to act fast. Kate was in a very bleak place and our happy, charming and adorable daughter was fast becoming lost to us. We knew she needed to take a break from college but she needed more (ultimately, she took a medical leave of absence). We were desperate. She didn’t want to attend a residential program (away from home) so we were faced with trying to find an alternative. A therapist and a consultant we hired to help us navigate this scary process recommended that we consider Semester Off. Right after the holidays, we contacted Dr. Ilan Goldberg and visited Semester Off. We spent two hours with Ilan and his colleague, Sarah, one evening discussing Kate’s needs and how Semester Off could be helpful. Ilan gave me the names of three families whose children had attended Semester Off and I spent an hour on the phone with each one trying to discern if Semester Off was the right option for Kate. It certainly was and it is probably the principle reason that Kate is back to her healthy, happy self. Through the Semester Off structure and guiding hands of Ilan, Sarah and Brittany, a third Semester Off staff member, we got our daughter back. To optimize the Semester Off experience, both the students and their families need to be invested and willing to put in the hard work it takes to make this unique experience successful. Kate worked hard and so did my husband and I. Together we had to make changes in our family structure to support the internal work that Kate was undertaking. I really believe that Semester Off saved Kate. The greatest testament to this is Kate’s return to college with a wholly new understanding of herself and the world. Thank you to Ilan, Sarah and Brittany for returning Kate to us.

As parents we will be eternally grateful for the counseling, confidence and support which Semester Off provided our son in a serious time of need. He found himself out of school, depressed, and seeing someone for help, but felt totally and completely isolated. He had no friends at home, no peers and was drowning. Semester Off was the life raft he needed. He had a place to go, every day, where young adults with similar issues developed friendships, pushed each other and provided the encouragement and camaraderie needed to get back on track. Dr. Goldberg and the SO staff helped him to regain what he had lost – - his confidence, his trust in himself, his ability to deal with what life throws at him, even the basics, like his study habits. As I write this post, he is packing his last suitcase to return to college. Semester Off played an enormous part in his journey. They gave him what he needed to move forward, get a job, take pride in himself, stand on his own two feet and ultimately, return to college to finish what he started. Yes, there is a cost to SO, but, in our opinion, the cost of not doing this program would have been far greater.