Recently, Harvard announced that 340 first year students requested deferment–20% of the normal class size. At the University of Massachusetts meanwhile, only 1.2% have asked for a gap year. At first glance, it appears that elite universities may see higher gap year deferment numbers that other colleges.
In this time of COVID-19, more parents are exploring the option of a gap year, but no matter what year it is parents are often struck by the same thought—these gap year programs are expensive.
In a “normal” year, most formalized gap year programs have an international travel component which makes the price go up. As these formalized programs shifted to no or less travel this year, they still need to preserve their revenue/purpose. (You can read more about gap years in this blog post.)
What about taking classes from a community college?
Many parents think that a student can defer and take some college classes like at a community college during that year. Possibly, but not often. Most colleges will require that the student NOT take classes elsewhere. If they do take courses for credit, the student will need to reapply as a transfer student.
So, what are some less expensive gap year options?
One of the best ideas? Students can work and explore future careers. We always strongly encourage teens to have part time jobs before heading to college. Of course, they will be able to save money, but in addition they learn what it means to work for someone else, interact with co-workers, serve customers, maintain a schedule, and much more. Perhaps they can find a job related to their future career goals?
Gap years are meant to be for exploration…so taking time to explore your career field is a good and valuable thing. Spend time researching…maybe some informational interviews? Exploring potential future employers? If paid employment is not an option in your field, perhaps look for non-paying/internship-type roles. You might have to think outside the box. But even just working at Raising Canes while doing outside future career research is valuable.
You can also incorporate volunteering into your year. National companies like AmeriCorps might be worth exploring, and there are plenty of local companies that need help. In Central Ohio, the MidOhio Food Bank is among the charities always seeking help. As families nationwide continue to struggle because of the pandemic, volunteer opportunities like these may become even more vital. Even just volunteering for elderly neighbors would be a great experience.
Two more quick things to consider about gap years
Is your college offering a semester gap year or do you have to take the full year “off”? AND if you take a year off, keep those thinking, reasoning, and WRITING muscles active. Taking a break from “school-brain” can be a hard adjustment when it is time to return to your academics. Just two things to throw into the mix.
Whether or not to take a gap year and what to do with it is a lot to weigh and evaluate. We wish we had a magic wand, but alas, we do not. Carefully consider what is best for your family and go from there.