Gap Years and Your College List!
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
Questions to Ask Yourself
You are applying to college (perhaps next year). But you are wondering if it would be worth taking a gap year - since college will be online. This of course is not a decision to take lightly.
From Newsweek, a Dartmouth admittee explained:
I really enjoy and value the in-person connection with professors and students...I just really didn’t want half the experience for the same amount of tuition. That was a deal-breaker for me...With just four college years, she didn’t want to spend one dealing with the coronavirus. ‘What we see with other schools now is kind of a disaster, and it’s kind of validating my decision,’ she says.
Can You Afford A Gap Year?
The reality is that your current financial aid offerings can of course evaporate if you are not enrolled in college. For many people, a gap year is a terrible idea because of the economic consequences.
Bucknell University states it quite plainly:
You don't have that kind of cash: Taking a gap year can be expensive. While financial aid can cover your study abroad experiences in college, it won't pay for a pre-college backpacking trip across Europe. Students targeting financial success after college often calculate that it doesn't make financial sense to take a year off.
Bloomberg Businessweek notes:
Students taking gap years tend to be more affluent, better able to afford a $75,000-a-year private college—and the expense of taking an extended break before enrolling.
Are You Going to Benefit?
If you were planning to enter college, and don’t, what will you actually do during your gap year? In other years, if you had a job offer, or an opportunity to do some service learning - something hands-on - that could be very tempting and worth delaying college. But during the pandemic, many such opportunities have vanished.
Would My College Even Let Me Defer?
The reality is that colleges’ policies about gap years differ - a lot. Before you start packing your suitcase for a year-long excursion to the vacation place of your choosing - oh wait, you might not be able to really go anywhere or do anything because of COVID19 - it is important to research how various schools differ.
Gap Year Policies
Colleges’ gap year policies range in time, and some are only allowing admittees on a case-by-case basis vs. a blanket policy.
Example 1: Purdue
Take note of Purdue’s policy:
You may request a gap year for the following reasons:
Military or public service
Extraordinary, full-time travel, volunteer service or work opportunity
Illness validated by a doctor’s written confirmation
Cultural enrichment opportunity
It is typical in that they require you to make a formal request, in light of a specific issue or opportunity. For many schools, you usually must 1) provide a deposit for attendance and 2) complete a formal request for deferral.
Purdue’s policy is also typical in that they are looking for a tangible, substantial reason the majority of your time would be dedicated to something other than school.
Example 2: Emory
Emory is quite generous in that it will allow for up to 2 years for a deferral.
Example 3: UC Davis
Something to consider is that schools do not want you to defer enrollment, only to sign up for classes somewhere else. UC Davis warns:
Students are not allowed to enroll in any coursework at another accredited college or university during this time.
Do You Simply Need More Time?
The Los Angeles Times interviewed a biotech intern who decided to take a gap year, who noted:
‘In the journey into adulthood, there’s so much anxiety and so much worry,’ he says, noting that many of his peers find comfort in the straight-to-college path with their lives a bit more plotted out for them. For him, this is a year, despite the coronavirus, to become more ‘mature, curious, and motivated.
What About Semesters Off?
One thing to remember is that most colleges will let you take a semester off once you are actually enrolled and attending. So a gap year is not your only opportunity to take a breather.
GenTwenty’s blogger has no regrets about taking a semester off:
For one, I got the opportunity to figure out my priorities. When you’re in the midst of midterms and group projects with constant deadlines looming in the near future, it can be difficult to remember some things… like what really matters: You and your future.
Enlighteens Education Perspective
Ultimately, only you can decide how important it would be to take a break before starting college. For example, what if you are worried about bringing infections home to family members who are vulnerable? If a gap year is very important to you, this may even ultimately affect how you build your college list. High school juniors, take note!
These policies may very well change, depending on this year’s admission cycle. However, it is worth spending some time to understand the options that various colleges offer for deferrals, in case that is something you wish to pursue in the future.