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Should You Take a Gap Year Because of COVID-19?

This year, college looks a little different than usual. Most schools are embracing an entirely remote or hybrid learning model, and students who are attending college in-person must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines.


Gap years are nothing new, but more students are deciding to go this route during the COVID-19 pandemic than previously. Is that the right decision for you?


Why Are Students Taking Gap Years?


According to an August College Reaction and Axios poll, 22% of college students reported that they weren’t going to attend college in the fall.


Some took a gap year because they didn’t think a remote college experience would be worth it, now that they wouldn’t be able to live in dorms, join clubs and activities, and socialize with their peers. Many students also worried that their home environments wouldn’t be conducive to learning online.


Others felt that this college model wouldn’t be worth the cost. With so many colleges continuing to charge full tuition for hybrid or fully remote courses, some students are taking time off to earn credits at community colleges or work until they can take advantage of a college experience that they feel has more value.


And, of course, there’s the safety factor. Many schools continue to have in-person classes, and students want to protect themselves and their loved ones by not returning to campus. This, combined with the above factors, has prompted some students to sit this semester (and possibly spring, too) out.


Pros and Cons of Taking a COVID-19 Gap Year




1. There’s no need to take online classes.


Many instructors, like students, found themselves in the world of online education for the first time this year. That meant there was a great deal of experimentation and adjustment — which, according to some, didn’t make for the learning experience students were hoping for. Taking a gap year means students can skip over this period and return when they can take courses in-person, or after teachers have honed their online teaching skills.


2. You’ll have the opportunity to explore your interests.


A gap year gives you the opportunity to explore interests you might not have time to pursue while you’re going to school. From volunteering to learning how to code to writing, there are many independent projects students can undertake at home. Arguably, that, too, offers a solid educational experience, perhaps as much so as a traditional college education.


3. You can take time to refresh before college.


This has been an extremely stressful year for everyone. A gap year gives you time to take a breather before returning to hectic college life and a demanding school schedule.


That doesn’t mean you should just do nothing all day, but it does mean you can take a bit of a break and relax.


4. You can gain work experience.


A gap year is the perfect time to secure a temporary job or internship. This benefits you in multiple ways: you’ll gain experience in the working world and earn some money at the same time. There are even some remote opportunities available.

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1. Opportunities are limited during COVID-19.


A gap year shouldn’t be a time to avoid something (college); you should use it as an opportunity to grow in other areas. Unfortunately, during COVID-19, you may have more trouble finding other projects to pursue. Many businesses are struggling, travel isn’t safe or even that feasible (to and from some areas), and many opportunities aren’t available remotely. Before you decide to take a gap year, make sure you have a plan for how to spend it.


2. Gap years are expensive. 


Many formal gap-year programs are very pricey. Even if you’re not participating in a program, you’ll have to account for living expenses, unless your parents are covering them. Plus, there’s the fact that you’ll be delaying your entry into the workforce (more on that below), which will decrease your overall earnings.


3. Gap years can be more fruitful later on in college or after college.


It may be more worthwhile to take a gap year once you have a better sense of what you want to do academically or professionally. Moreover, your independence and personal budget are limited when you’re younger, and it’s possible you’ll get more out of a gap year once you’re older.


4. It will delay opportunities.


Taking a gap year means you’ll be delaying your graduation. This could also mean you’ll be behind your peers in terms of starting your career. Some students lose the motivation to return to school after their time off. That’s why it’s so important to spend this period doing something that contributes to, rather than detracts from, your learning and career preparation.


The Bottom Line


While gap years can be productive and helpful for some students, they aren’t for everyone. Before you decide to take one, put together a plan to keep yourself occupied and working toward your goals. It’s also a good idea to apply to college before your gap year and defer your acceptance; that way, you’ll still have access to your teachers and guidance counselor for recommendations, and you won’t have to “justify” your gap year on college applications.


And, if you need help working on your applications or planning for the future, sign up for a free CollegeVine account. We’ll help you navigate the process, whether you’re thinking of taking a gap year or heading straight to college after high school, and offer tips to maximize your chances of success. On our college applications platform, you’ll find essay tips, a peer essay review tool, livestreams by experts, and a Q&A forum. Best of all, it’s totally free!

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.