Should Students Take a Gap Year Because of COVID-19?
The Coronavirus Has Put A Halt To Most Of The World’s Activities In Just A Few Short Weeks...
This means the current global pandemic is also greatly affecting the world of college admissions. In some cases, colleges immediately began offering deferrals and online classes for the first time since their founding in an effort to make the transition to college as smooth as possible, considering the circumstances. Others are still trapped in a state of limbo.
The idea of a college gap year hasn’t been popular in the past decade among high school seniors. Instead, students have been more ambitious in recent years than ever before by pursuing admission to college along with scholarships, internships, and full-time jobs.
Yet, in the midst of the uncertainty COVID-19 has created, taking a gap year is looking more and more attractive to high school students. This interest has grown rapidly since the start of widespread school closures, and many students are finding that this may be the perfect opportunity to take some time off.
Keep reading to learn about how a COVID-19 gap year will look different than the standard gap year, and how students can prepare for it.
What Is A Gap Year?
A gap year is defined as a year-long break after high school graduation and before college for students to learn from real world experiences, and in turn, learn more about themselves.
Students usually take gap years in similar time frames, either between their senior year of high school and their freshman year of college or after their senior year of college. In this context, high school students are most likely considering taking a college gap year due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19.
Many opportunities that students pursued or committed to have either been canceled or postponed indefinitely throughout the summer, so this would be the ideal time for students to take the year off to learn more about themselves, save money, or decide on a career path.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the decision to take a gap year is easy. Students will need to plan for everything a gap year entails, and consider if it will really benefit their academic career.
The Pros And Cons Of A Gap Year
As with any major decision, taking a college gap year comes with its pros and cons. Specific positive and negative outcomes of this decision will look different for everyone, but here are some universal factors to keep in mind.
Gap years can be extremely beneficial for students who are unsure of the decisions they want to make regarding their future.
By taking a year off, students can learn from real world experiences. There’s only so much a classroom can teach; eventually every student will have to take what they learn in school and apply it to situations in the real world. The college gap year experience allows students to become comfortable with learning from life situations before transitioning back into the classroom.
With this freedom, students have more time and space to figure out what they really want out of life. This will look different for everyone; maybe a student is struggling with choosing a career path or they can’t seem to find motivation for what they do. A gap year essentially gives students more time to find their purpose.
If a student’s reasons to take a gap year are financially-motivated, then they will have plenty of time to save money and develop a college finances plan that works for them. This time could also give them a chance to try new activities, learn a new skill, and help them figure out what they’d like to study in college to further streamline their college experience.
Lastly, a big perk of taking a gap year is how much fun students can have! Everyone’s senior year of high school can be stressful, and many students will benefit from a year of decompressing before diving back into full-time schoolwork.
The pros of a college gap year are:
- Learn from real experiences
- Figure out life purpose and goals
- An opportunity to save money
- Figure out what to study in college
- Have fun!
The negative aspects of taking a gap year have more to do with habits, productivity, and momentum. While these things can be built from anywhere, nothing beats getting a running start out of high school and straight into college.
By taking a year off and starting freshman year later, students risk being older and more experienced than others in their classes. At first glance, this seems like it could be an advantage, but it may be difficult for gap year students to relate to fellow classmates. A gap year helps students overcome challenges like homesickness and transitions; if a student is already adjusted to life on their own, it may be challenging for them to find another student who relates to their experiences.
College freshmen also learn many specific, important lessons during their first year, like how college is different from high school and all the study habits that go along with this shift. Everything from studying to taking notes in class, good student habits may take a while for someone to transition back into after a whole year off from school.
There’s always the possibility that students will lose interest in going to college after taking a gap year as well. If your child has their heart set on going to college eventually when they start their gap year, they have to be prepared for the possibility that they’ll find a different option they enjoy more.
While a gap year is a great opportunity to save money, in some cases, students will be free to do whatever they want. If they’re not careful, they could end up spending more money than they save. College is great because it instantly gives students structure and an incentive to save money. Without that structure, students could be more tempted to spend their money on spur of the moment things, rather than saving up for college.
The cons of a college gap year:
- Different background from other freshmen
- Missing out on basic first-year lessons
- The possibility of losing interest in going to college
- Spending more, saving less
How COVID-19 Affects A Gap Year
A "COVID-19 Gap Year" looks different from past gap years. Some colleges are giving their accepted students the option to defer admission to the next year while other colleges will begin their fall semesters online and then gradually move classes back on campus. Due to health and safety concerns, many students are now considering a gap year. Perhaps this gives them more time to save money, apply for more scholarships, or decide on an area of study.
Before COVID-19, taking a college gap year was primarily for students who didn’t know what they wanted to major in yet, or needed more time to save money. Usually, they hoped to find the answers to these questions in international trips and service projects.
Now, taking a gap year is motivated by the desire to kill time until campuses reopen, and avoiding paying the full price of living on campus while on campus activities and amenities are on hold.
International travel probably won’t be one of the reasons a student takes a gap year due to restrictions and strong recommendations against it by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control. Taking a gap year could also be a purely financial decision. With so many lay-offs occurring, families may not be able to pay college bills anymore, so students taking a gap year could help their family’s financial situation greatly.
Some things that students can do during their COVID-19 gap year is to pursue involvement with service groups like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, which is more likely to stay active during the global pandemic. Even remote internships are starting to become available. Look at organizations like Year On, which helps students find gap year opportunities.
The Gap Year Decision
The decision to take a gap year is just as important as a student’s decision to go to college. A gap year can give students exactly what they need, whether it be time, clarity, or more savings.
When students are considering the pros and cons of taking a gap year and weighing all their options, they should be mindful to take this decision very seriously. A gap year can produce both positive and negative outcomes, depending on the student’s goals.
Students should take more time than they think is necessary to make this decision and remember all the safety precautions for COVID-19 set in place by major health organizations. A COVID-19 gap year may not include international travel, so students should do research on the kind of service groups or gap year organizations they can get involved with, rather than spending the year sitting at home.
In the end, a college gap year could be exactly what students need right now. So as long as they do the right research and weigh their options wisely, they can approach this decision with mindfulness. Of course, if students have any questions or concerns regarding the college admissions process and how it relates to gap years, they should contact one of WeAdmit’s professional counselors. We’ve done the research and our admissions teams are ready to walk you through the process of making this decision, step by step.
In fact, we’re currently running a webinar for parents of soon-to-be college students walking them through everything they’ll need to know about Covid-19 and how it affects their child’s college future!
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