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Nearly half of high school seniors say they’re considering a gap year because of the pandemic

Hillary Hoffower and Juliana Kaplan Jun 10, 2020, 4:50 PM

High school seniors are still considering taking a gap year. Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • Almost half (43%) of high school seniors who haven’t yet committed to a college are considering a gap year, a recent LendEDU survey found.
  • Students are willing to wait for a full college experience: They don’t want to pay for Zoom classes or experience deserted campus life.
  • But gap years could shrink the incoming class and thus the tuition going to schools, and it might be difficult for students to have a productive gap year at home.

Even after graduation, many high school seniors are still uncertain about their college plans.

A recent LendEDU survey polled 1,000 Americans ages 17 to 25. Exactly half of these respondents were high school seniors; of that group, 59% said they’ve made a final decision that they would attend college in fall 2020 and submitted a deposit to the school of their choice. Among those high school seniors who haven’t yet committed to a college, 43% said they’re considering taking a gap year instead of enrolling for a fall 2020 start, the survey found.

Of the 43% who said they would consider a gap year, 68% said it was a possibility for them before the pandemic.

A gap year is a year-long break taken after years of schooling, typically between graduating high school and beginning college, or between undergraduate school and a career or graduate school. It’s a chance for students to have new experiences, grow, and figure out their future plans.

The gap year has slowly become more popular in the US, and schools have taken note: Harvard University has a full webpage encouraging students to take a gap year. While there isn’t extensive research on gap years, the data that’s out there outlines an uptick.

But more students are now considering a gap year as colleges roll out remote semesters for the fall or reopening plans that involve social distancing and no sports.

A surge in gap year interest

As NYU professor Scott Galloway told Business Insider, people are realizing a Zoom college experience isn’t worth the cost of tuition.
“I think a gap year in deferring 2021 is going to be what I’d call a disruptive but a terrible year for the end consumer, as we as academics try to maintain this hallucination that we can continue to charge what we’re charging for a totally substandard experience via Zoom,” he said.

Christopher Rim, a college admissions consultant and the CEO of Command Education, previously told Business Insider the gap year idea has been catching on among his students.

“Almost all of my students who have been admitted to top-tier colleges are reconsidering their plans for this upcoming academic year, with some submitting gap year request forms to delay the start of their freshman year so that they can have the full college experience,” Rim said.

But he thinks so many students will apply for gap years that colleges may stop allowing applicants to request them. “It’s a little uncertain how colleges are going to approve or deny gap-year requests,” he said.

Too many deferrals could substantially shrink the incoming class, Business Insider previously reported, which would mean less tuition going to schools — and some colleges are already on the brink of closure.

A gap year could also present another problem, in that previously popular gap year activities (like in-person volunteering or travel) are no longer possible. This might make it more difficult for students to have a productive, fulfilling gap year at home.

But there’s a bright side for some: If spots open up from gap-year takers, students who got wait-listed at their dream schools could get good news.

This article appeared in Business Insider on Jun 10, 2020