Does the impact of COVID-19 have you considering a gap year? If so, you’re not alone. Many students and their families are weighing the educational, financial, and personal value of a potentially disrupted college experience vs. a gap year. Below are some answers that can help you and your family evaluate the option. Complimentary consults are available.

Questions & answers

What is a gap year and is it different in the era of COVID-19?

Gap time is intentional, and used for personal growth, skill development, or interest exploration. That remains true no matter the global circumstances.  Gap time involves defining your personal goals, and planning activities that will help you achieve them. Flexibility, problem solving, resilience, and dealing with challenge are excellent goals. Without a doubt, a gap year in 2020-2021 is going to offer the chance to go after those goals!

Can I afford a gap year that I haven’t budgeted for?

It is important to understand that a gap year is a worthwhile investment. Gap students are more likely to graduate on time, change their major less frequently, and maintain a higher GPA, so there is a valuable return on your investment. That said, if you want to plan a cost-neutral gap year that is possible. Options such as work exchange programs, AmeriCorps, and paid employment can keep the cost low. Factor current and anticipated economic impacts from the virus into your budget.

What options for a gap year will be available in 2020-2021?

Volunteer on a political campaign or with a grassroots organization in your community. Build your yoga and meditation practice. Study a foreign language in preparation for international travel, service work, or college placement exams. Learn to code. Volunteer (or work) as a contact tracer. A gap year is flexible, and highly personal, so the opportunities are endless. As an industry we are looking at 3 basic scenarios for next year.

  1. Social and travel restrictions remain. College goes online. In this scenario a gap year student will have flexibility to pursue choice activities while adapting to changing circumstances.
  2. Traveling abroad remains restricted, but local and regional travel open up. College likely remains a modified experience, but is campus-based. Gappers will have the opportunity to relocate, redefine their social bubble, and pursue chosen activities. Many group-based gap year programs are evaluating a delayed start date and more domestic options for just this scenario. 
  3. Life resumes to normal-ish. College students enjoy more freedom on campus. Gappers have more ability to pursue activities, work, internships, and travel. Group-based gap programs run may resume (near) typical.

How should I get started exploring this more?

  1. Understand your college deferral policy. Are they granting gap year deferrals, what deadlines apply, and are they capping the number they will grant? Most colleges will not consider a semester-long deferral, but there is no harm in asking. Scholarships and merit aid packages may transfer with your deferral, but it is important to confirm this. Financial aid will require reapplying with the FAFSA.  
  2. Define your personal gap year goals, develop a budget, and begin to sketch a plan.
  3. Request your deferral. Be prepared to explain why you are taking a gap year with intention for personal growth – not because of the virus. You will impress your college by demonstrating that you have done research and begun to develop a plan. 

My gap year in 2019-2020 was disrupted. Can I take another one?

Not an unreasonable question at all. Students who had their gap year take an abrupt turn this winter are in the same quandary about what to do with this coming fall as students in the Class of 2020. Did you achieve your gap year goals? Have new ones emerged that would outweigh the benefit of going to college in the fall, as planned, online or not? If so, ask your college if they will consider a second deferral. In the best of times some will, but this is uncharted territory for colleges and answers will vary.

What’s your BEST worst-case scenario? 

Now that you think about it, does a gap year sounds great?! It really is a unique and rich opportunity in your life, but if college ends up on campus in the fall and you will be longing to be there, it may not be for you. That’s what this really comes down to. 

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Mary Oliver

Coaching services for a purposeful and self-directed year of personal growth and fun.  Located outside of Boston, MA, A Gap Away is also available for advising via telephone and video.  

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