As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact daily life, high school seniors face a dilemma. The pandemic will drastically change the way many colleges function during the upcoming fall and perhaps the spring semesters. Some schools will be entirely online, while others might require masks, or have some restrictions on extracurriculars. The uncertainty is causing an increasing number of high school seniors to consider taking a gap year before attending college. Even without the coronavirus pandemic risks, a gap year can be a smart and rewarding path for recent high school graduates.
What Is a Gap Year?
A high school graduate takes a gap year when he/she does not attend college the semester immediately following high school. This time off from school should not be used to watch the entire Netflix library, but rather to enrich oneself personally and professionally. Gap years are not for everyone, and they take drastically different forms. One of the most common gap year paths is enrolling in organized gap year programs. These programs are not affiliated with colleges but are created by professionals with connections around the world. Often these carefully curated programs send recent graduates across the globe to immerse them into different cultures. For example, many programs allow recent graduates to live in Europe to study art and language. Some programs focus on volunteering in third world countries such as Kenya. When evaluating the organized gap year path, remember to do your research, read reviews, and choose reputable programs. Instead of doing an organized gap year, recent grads can choose much less formalized experiences that they create themselves. Perhaps a recent grad has a family in another country and decides to live with them to absorb a different culture. Other times unorganized gap years focus on making money from home. Regardless, both organized and unorganized gap year plans are not a vacation. This time off from school needs to be used productively to make taking the year off worthwhile.
The biggest roadblock to a productive gap year is paying for it. Gap years can become very expensive, very quickly. Especially if one is living abroad. Parents are generally less willing to pay for a gap year than for a year of school, and gap years usually cost thousands of dollars. There is minimal access to financial aid too. There are some gap year scholarships, but they are pretty competitive and scarce. The best way to pay for a gap year is to plan ahead and manage spending in high school. Also, working odd jobs whenever possible such as mowing lawns or washing cars can help. <br>
Most people do not do any formal education during a gap year. Still, some choose to take a couple of courses at a community college. This choice can get tricky because if you take too many credits at the community college, you will have to apply to other schools as a transfer student rather than an incoming freshman. Applying as a transfer student can seriously affect acceptance chances and financial aid. Some colleges offer deferrals to accepted students allowing them to take a gap year and attend the following year. Seniors planning to be college athletes or heavily involved in extracurriculars in the upcoming Fall semester will have to keep an eye on how the Covid-19 policies will affect those activities and scholarships. It is especially crucial during this pandemic for seniors to talk to college admission officers, coaches, and parents to get accurate information concerning the gap year path.
Discuss and Decide
It is essential to analyze the pros and cons of a gap year in the context of one’s personal goals. Gaps years are an excellent time for personal growth and expanding one’s horizons. Also, it can increase one’s college acceptance chances. After college graduation, a good gap year program looks great on a resume as well. However, they can be enormously expensive and will mean one less year in the workforce. Gap years require meticulous planning to pull off successfully. Perhaps most importantly, one must be mature enough to stick to their gap year plan. <br>
The decision to take a gap year is intensely personal. High school seniors need to have serious discussions and know all the relevant information to make an educated decision. Particularly right now, during a global pandemic that affects international travel programs. Seniors need to stay calm, get the facts, and be honest about their goals throughout the process.
Gap Year Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2020, from https://www.goabroad.com/gap-year
Kerins, Joseph. Gap year with Covid-19.mp4. Elite Collegiate Planning, Apr 21, 2020.
Writers, Staff (2020, July 22). Taking a Gap Year: Pros and Cons and How to Apply to College. Retrieved July 28, 2020.