Program Overview

Settle in for a nice read that will explain everything there is to know about Ascend.

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How it Works

Ascend is Unbound’s core program — but that’s not all. It is an academic program, providing college credit through flexible academics. It is a life training program that will equip you with the practical life skills, decision-making ability, and leadership experience you need to be successful in life. And it is a network — both personal and professional — that you can benefit from for life. 

But more than anything else, Ascend is a community — a place to meet exceptional people, build relationships that will last a lifetime (and beyond), and ultimately know that regardless of where you live or what life brings, you have people around you who will pray for you, support you, and be there for you no matter what.  

Here’s how it works. 

When you enroll in Ascend, you have an academic advising call and receive a Degree Plan. Your Degree Plan is a customized strategy that reflects your academic goals, the courses you need to take to achieve those goals, and when you will take those courses. Your Degree Plan will show you the courses and costs for your targeted college or university that will grant your degree. 

You will also be assigned to your Ascend Team, comprised of 7-10 other Ascend students and led by an Ascend Team Leader. Your Team Leader is another student or alumni who has successfully completed all of the elements of the first year of Ascend and who has been intensively trained in coaching, leadership, and academic support. His or her job will be to help you and your other team members set and achieve your educational and personal goals for the year. 

The first course you and your team will take in the Ascend program is Navigate. This course runs from September through early December and is designed to help young adults understand the principles behind a life of purpose and meaning. Navigate students learn to ask the right questions about life and direction as they build an effective strategy for decision-making about their future. 

As the fall kicks off, you will also start your first courses for credit and begin meeting regularly with your Ascend Team. Your team will communicate through a dedicated chat using the Slack app and will meet twice a month.

The first meeting every month will be an Ascend Expert Webinar. Attended by all Ascend students, these webinars provide opportunities for field experts to share their experiences and the lessons they have learned. These webinars give you a chance to see how what you are learning is successfully applied in the real world. 

Your second meeting of the month will be with your own Ascend Team. In this meeting, you will discuss and apply the webinar content to your own life in practical ways. You will also hear from your teammates and report on your own progress in your classes, semester goals, and Ascend Project. 

What’s the Ascend Project?

This is your “capstone” for your year in Ascend and teaches you how to make an idea a reality. These projects are as varied as they come, but there are a few common threads: students choose their own projects, which a) must be challenging; and b) must incorporate lessons learned throughout the year. Past student projects have included illustrating a children’s book, achieving business sales goals, starting a business, running a marathon to raise money for a charity, and building a canoe and taking a five-day river trip. Your project should be as unique as you are and challenging enough to meet your ambition and personal goals.


Don’t forget that Ascend is not a fully online program. There are three live events throughout the year and your travel costs are included in the program. That’s right — plane tickets will be arriving in your inbox in time for every trip!

APEX is our national conference, usually held in Michigan. A student highlight, APEX is both exciting and deep, brings in students from across the country, and is mostly about connections, fun, and great speakers and activities.

Bootcamp is an intense skills training event, usually held in Texas or Florida. This event is smaller and more personal than APEX; you will have the chance to bond even more with your teammates and other students as you learn the critical foundational skills necessary to successfully complete your Ascend Project — and any other idea you wish to make reality.

Capstone is the culmination of the Signature Leadership Courses and is held in the Colorado mountains. A leadership, coaching, and relationship “intensive,” Capstone is the most academically challenging event — but it’s also an event that students consistently recommend as “life changing.”

In summary, the entire Ascend Program is designed to teach you what you need to know about life and leadership through our Signature courses and Navigate and to teach you how to learn in this digital age in your other college courses. The Expert Webinars help you see how successful leaders have applied what they have learned in their lives. Your Team will give you a community of people who will hold you responsible for learning and maximizing your time in Ascend. The live events will teach you how to use what you have learned. And your Ascend Project is where you bring it all together and apply what you have learned.


When you finish Ascend, here’s what will have happened:  

  • You will have made lifelong friends that you have traveled with, worked beside, and experienced some intense and deep times with. 
  • You will have completed your Ascend Project and achieved a significant personal goal.
  • You will be equipped and trained to be exceptionally good at the basics of life: relationships, work, learning, and Biblical rest. 
  • You will have earned 9, 15, or 30 college credits. These credits can be transferred to your school of choice, or you can use them to earn your full degree if you choose to stay enrolled in Ascend. 
  • You will have earned the Signature Leadership Certificate. This is a credential that you can put on your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Employers who learn about this credential will receive solid information about your leadership skills and experience. 
  • You will have earned the Ascend Certificate. This credential will show potential employers and/or graduate programs about your experiences and accomplishments in the Ascend program. 
  • You will have options for your life. You can choose to: 1) Stay in Ascend, earn more credits, eventually transfer those credits to one of our partner schools, and earn a fully accredited debt free degree; 2) Take your newly learned skills and experience and go to work, either for an employer or by starting your own business; 3) Transfer your credits to a school of your choice and complete your degree with that school. 

No matter what option you choose you will have access to the Unbound and Ascend network and community for life.

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If you’re ready to be challenged, work hard, participate in Christian community, learn more than you’ve ever learned before, and make the most of your gap year, you’re the student we want.

Applications close on December 18, 2020 for the Spring 2021 class. Spring students will start on January 11, 2021.

9 Credits

  •  3 college courses
  •  Registration and travel to Capstone & Bootcamp
  •  Signature Leadership Courses
  •  Ascend team assignment
  •  Access to expert workshops
  •  Opportunities for leadership
  •  Access to the community, forever
  • Signature Leadership Certification


with a payment plan


paid in full

Apply Now

15 Credits

  •  5 college courses
  •  Registration and travel to all events
  •  Signature Leadership Courses
  •  Ascend team assignment
  •  Access to expert workshops
  •  Opportunities for leadership
  •  Access to the community, forever
  • Signature Leadership Certification
  • Ascend Certification


with a payment plan


paid in full

30 Credits

  •  10 college courses
  •  Registration and travel to all events
  •  Signature Leadership Courses
  •  Ascend team assignment
  •  Access to expert workshops
  •  Opportunities for leadership
  •  Access to the community, forever
  • Signature Leadership Certification
  • Ascend Certification


with a payment plan


paid in full

Want to talk to someone before you apply? Schedule a call with us!


What is Ascend?

Ascend is Unbound’s core program, designed as a year-long intensive that combines the best of flexible academics, practical life skills, robust community, and leadership expertise. Students graduate Ascend with more than college credit—they graduate with knowledge from field experts, a life-changing leadership credential, a challenging project completed, practical skills from life courses, a remarkable professional and personal network, and having attended three powerful live events.

Who is this program designed for?

Ascend students want something more. They recognize that they are called to a life of meaning, service, and leadership—and are willing to pursue that vision. They’re willing to commit time, effort, and energy to the process of growth, and they see the value of skills and principles that will equip them for a life of impact. They’re willing to be part of a team, knowing that they and their fellow students can help each other to go further and do more than they could on their own.

They know that an extraordinary life lies past the edge of their comfort zone, and even if it takes time, they’re willing to set sail for that horizon.

If this sounds like you, Ascend was designed for you. (And you should go apply.)

Can I do Ascend as a dual enrollment high school student?

Yes! High school students can do Ascend as a dual enrollment year. We recommend our 9-credit package for high school students who are just entering the college world.

Can I do Ascend as a gap year?

Of course! While some level of academic participation is currently required to enroll in Ascend, you can select our 9-credit option if you would prefer to take fewer classes.

Can I do Ascend for multiple years?

Yes! You can take one to four years of Ascend. Each year is designed to be a full experience in itself, but subsequent years build on each other and provide students with deeper and more significant opportunities as they progress.

Can I use financial aid, scholarships, or tuition assistance plans for Ascend?

Because we are affiliated with schools but are not a college ourselves, we cannot take financial aid, scholarships, or tuition assistance directly. However, you are welcome to utilize available options at your discretion and use those funds to enroll in Ascend. Because we’ve all been college students too, we’re excited that our pricing structure is set lower than the average state school with tuition assistance!

Our Team

Hint: We're all homeschoolers.

Jonathan Brush

President and CEO

Jonathan Brush is the President and CEO of Unbound, a homeschool graduate, and a homeschool dad of six. He worked for nine years as a Director of Admissions for a private, liberal arts college, and then spent over ten years working in non-traditional higher education.

Jonathan loves Unbound and Unbound students and dreams every single day about new ways to connect them to each other. He gets to work with the world’s best team and the most amazing student body in the history of the world (which is just as awesome as it sounds), and field questions about Rule 4 violations (ask an Unbound student to explain). Jonathan and his family make their home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Megan Weber


Megan Weber is the COO of Unbound. She is a homeschool graduate and 2014 Unbound graduate who fell in love with her college experience as she earned her BSBA. She enjoys being the ‘get it done’ force behind new ideas and loves interacting with students online and in person. When she's not planning events, creating spreadsheets, or keeping the Unbound team on track, she can usually be found spending time with friends, mastering a new skill, or booking a flight for her next adventure.

Ben Billups


Ben Billups is the CMO and CIO of Unbound. After graduating in 2016 from the Unbound program with a degree in Economics, Ben served as a public policy analyst for the Texas Legislature, the Student Communications Director for Unbound, and, most recently, as the Marketing Manager for a landmark statewide news organization in Texas.

Ben is a homeschool graduate, an obsessive learner, a native Texan, an award-winning filmmaker, and an active competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

Ellie Smith

Director, Sales & Admissions

Ellie Smith is the Director of Sales and Admissions for Unbound. She is a homeschool and Unbound graduate with a degree in Communications from Thomas Edison State University. In 2017 and 2018, she served on the Unbound National Student Cabinet as the Director of Sales and Marketing. In 2019, she traveled to Ecuador with Unbound’s mission team.

When Ellie isn't working with our awesome students, she's probably reading too many books at once, working on a graphic design or hand lettering project, or napping. Because naps are awesome. Her favorite meals are street tacos, popcorn, and coffee.

Victoria Grant

Director, Coaching & Content

Victoria Grant is the Director of Content and Coaching for Unbound. An Unbound graduate, Victoria has served in a variety of roles including student leadership, coaching, and in the Business and Leadership program. She is passionate about equipping young adults to recognize their potential, to know God, and make Him known in daily life.

When she’s not working on an Unbound project, you can find her scribbling on a novel, playing a favorite instrument, riding horses, watching a sunset, or dreaming up some new adventure that absolutely includes the Pacific coastline. One of the best parts of her world is walking alongside her fellow Unbound students as they make an eternal impact in their generation.

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