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Jasmine's Take: Gapping During a Global Pandemic

Jasmine Wheeler July 09, 2020

Gapping during a Global CrisisMost college-bound students expect to attend college directly after high school and are excited to do so, looking forward to freshman year traditions and exploring independent life in a new environment. While there are some students who defer their enrollment, the overwhelming majority choose not to during “typical” circumstances. During a typical year, only about 2% of college-bound students elect to take a gap year.

Enter: COVID-19.

Suddenly, colleges outline plans to keep students safe that ultimately alter the college experience recent high school graduates had been dreaming about for years. To keep students safe, classes are being moved online, sports are being put on hold, and traditions of meeting others and sharing close quarters are being canceled. With the college experience so radically altered, it’s no wonder more students may want to wait for a return to normalcy before embarking on the next chapter of their life

It seems like many of the traditional gap year activities, such as studying abroad or pursuing an internship, are being put on hold as well. So, what will taking time off before college look like during a pandemic? In this article, I’ll be discussing my decision to take a gap year and sharing the experience of three other “gappers” to illuminate this topic. I’ll be outlining when and why we chose to take gap years, what our plans are, and what advice we have for students considering a gap year (Note: answers may have been edited for clarity).

Ilyana, University of Michigan ’25

Q: When and why did you choose to take a gap year?

A: I chose to take a gap year in mid-May because I want to get the full college experience and make the most of my education, and I know that isn’t going to happen if my school ends up pursuing remote or hybrid learning due to COVID-19. 

Q: What do you plan on doing during your gap year?

A: I’ll be working at a software consulting company as a junior developer. I’m also trying to take advantage of this time to learn how to speak German and play guitar.

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in taking a gap year?

A: Have a plan for exactly how you’re going to spend your year, otherwise I think it would get pretty boring. Personally, I’m trying to learn a lot of different things on my own… which has been great for keeping me busy. This year is crazy and unique and I would never have considered taking a gap year if not for that. But I think what I’ve said will still apply as the world returns to a semblance of normalcy in future years.

Deven, Stanford ’25

Q: When and why did you choose to take a gap year? 

A: I made the decision after being admitted to my top choice college, so a decent while after the start of quarantine. I wasn’t planning on taking a gap year otherwise, but I figured that I wouldn’t get the college experience I wanted and was paying for. I’m personally not sure what I want to study in college yet, and was planning to spend freshman year exploring that - but, it would be hard to find my passion with online classes and a botched in-person experience. I also thought it would be more difficult to make friends, since it would be difficult to eat meals with new people or talk with other people about work. I found Stanford’s plan of students being on campus with majority online classes rather depressing - I’d hate doing online classes in my bedroom, but doing them in a dorm room by myself in a place otherwise full of energy and fun sounded even worse.

Q: What do you plan to do during your gap year?

A: With how uncertain the future is, I have been hesitant to make definitive plans. I was planning to live with my grandmother and potentially work in my uncle’s mechanic shop and/or tutor my cousins and their friends, but with cases in the US spiking I decided to hold off on that. I would love to study abroad if the situation improves by winter or spring. So far, I’ve applied to a few local internships and started working at DoorDash. As more jobs open up in my area and I hear back about my internship applications, I may look at getting a new job.

Q: What advice do you have for students considering taking a gap year?

A: Try to make a list or think about the positives and negatives of both gapping and enrolling. There are so many factors to consider, so putting them all in one place is super helpful!

Yichen, University of Michigan ’25 

Q: When and why did you choose to take a gap year?

A: I chose to take a gap year in late June. Even though my university chose to implement a “hybrid semester” (a system mixing online classes with in-person experiences), I reckoned they may have to close campus down again. And, I just don’t think I want to spend a year of my university life sitting in front of a computer, not leaving my dorm for days on end. 

Q: What do you plan to do during your gap year? 

A: I plan to work some jobs and apply for some internships. I might get an internship with UCCA, a modern art gallery in Beijing, which I really hope goes through. I also might get an internship with a medical equipment manufacturer in Shanghai. Either way, I look to work and get involved in society during my time off. COVID-19’s influence in China is almost entirely over, so I don’t think I’ll be stuck in my room for too long. 

Q: What advice do you have for students considering taking a gap year? 

A: Consider all of your options and use a payoff matrix to analyze your options. See if it would be worth it for you to take the gap year, and make your decision accordingly. 

Jasmine (That's Me!), Stanford ’25

Q: When and why did you choose to take a gap year? 

A: I chose to take a gap year in mid-June. Though Stanford’s plan for reopening in the fall, which involved students being on campus for two quarters and taking mostly online classes, was certainly safe, it was not what I envisioned for my first year of college. I want to wait to ensure I can have the experience that will be best for me.  Additionally, I think I could use the time to gain clarity on what I might major in during college and to explore different career options, as well as becoming a more global citizen.

Q: What do you plan to do during your gap year?

A: During the fall/early winter, I plan on continuing my part-time job working at a local farm and taking on a part-time internship with the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, allowing me to save up money for college and for my second semester while allowing me to explore a career field I’m interested in. During the late winter/early spring, I will spend a semester abroad with EF’s Gap Semester program, which will take me across Western Europe and allow me to live in Japan for eight weeks. I’m especially excited that this program will still continue, even with COVID-19. 

Q: What advice do you have for people considering taking a gap year?

A: Come up with a definitive strategy for what you want to accomplish during the year, and stick to it! You don’t want to waste an entire year accomplishing nothing. Take advantage of this rare period of time where you can truly pursue your passion without worrying about schoolwork or job pressures.

Hopefully, these interviews provided you with some insight into what taking a gap year in a global crisis looks like! Even with current constraints, students are pursuing their passions, saving up money, and enjoying some time off before starting the next phase of their life.

Jasmine Wheeler

We are thrilled to announce a new Estrela column: "Jasmine's Take!" Jasmine Wheeler joins Estrela’s team as a recent high school graduate, taking a gap year before joining Stanford’s Class of 2025. Working in social media management and writing, she hopes to offer an insider perspective on what it’s like to go through the college process. In her spare time, Jasmine enjoys watching films with her family and working on her writing projects. 

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Tagged: gap year, gapyear, Coronavirus, COVID-19

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