Should You Wait to Go to College?

Most colleges across the country are still trying to determine whether they will offer classes in-person or on-line this fall. If the California State University system tells us anything, it's that schools are going to be reluctant to offer classes on-campus anytime soon. Tim White, Chancellor of the California State University System, indicated in May that its 23 campuses will only offer a few courses in a traditional classroom setting. All of the rest will be offered via distance learning this fall. And the truth is, even if a college indicates that it will be open for regular classes this fall, if COVID-19 cases spike once again, it will certainly force a transition back to an all on-line format that we experienced this spring.

While I've never been much of a promoter for taking a gap year, the current crises makes this an intriguing option. If you are not familiar with the concept of a "gap year," the term generally means taking a period of time off from formal schooling, often for a year. It typically occurs after a student graduates from high school, and the idea is for the individual to use this time to gain practical experience and engage in experiential learning. Specifically, this might involve getting a job, participating in an internship, religious service, or doing some traveling.

According to the American Gap Association National Alumni Survey Report, 85% of those who took a gap year and participated in their survey were strongly supportive of taking a gap year. However, it's important to note that simply working a job instead of going to college was not correlated with having a positive perspective on the gap year. In other words, if a individual plans to skip a year of school only to work as a barista at a local coffee shop, he or she may later be disappointed that they didn't simply go to college instead. Moreover, some experts warn that if an individual takes a year off merely to work, it's likely they might not go to college at all.

According to the survey referenced above, the best way to use the gap year is to create a structured opportunity to gain life experiences, particularly through international travel. While this might be a great idea under normal conditions, it's probably risky to travel out-of-country right now due to the COVID-19 crisis. So does that mean a gap year isn't a good idea during COVID-19?

That's a great question. I would encourage individuals who are currently considering taking a gap year, to check out the resources available at the Gap Year Association website and decide for themselves. Whatever course you decide to take, the key is to use your time constructively and with the intent of connecting it to your life goals. In my next blog post I'll offer some suggestions for those of you who decide not to take a gap year, but instead want to begin college this fall.


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