Category Archives: Gap year

Gap Year Programs for 2020 – 2021

If you’ve accepted a college’s offer of admission, you may find yourself in a dilemma. You may not know if the campus will be open in the fall or if classes will be online, so you’re hesitant to pay a substantial sum for what may be only a facsimile of college life. Or you may simply be reluctant to join campus life while the coronavirus is still extant.  Instead, you may want to consider a gap year program.

Colleges that plan to re-open their campuses in the fall are introducing so many restrictions to cope with Covid-19 that it can hardly be considered college life. You may prefer to save money by attending a local community college and then transferring to a four-year college or enrolling at a state college for all four years.

Another alternative is to attend the college whose offer you’ve accepted but wait until all contingencies caused by the pandemic are resolved and normal campus life has resumed. You can choose this path if the college allows you to take a gap year during the 2020-21 academic year. Under present conditions, many institutions have revised their policies so that you can be granted a gap year after you’ve accepted their offer of admission.

Before a college approves your request, they want to know that your plans for the year are worthy of the privilege. The most popular gap activities have been packaged programs involving overseas travel. However, due to the pandemic, traveling abroad isn’t a good idea now, so international gap programs have been shut down.

The idea that you need to travel to a developing country, learn about its language, people, and culture, and improve people’s lives, simply isn’t practical in 2020. But you don’t need to go abroad to improve people’s lives. By revealing harsh inequities in our society, the pandemic has made it clearly evident that there’s plenty of help needed in our own country.

Gap Year Programs for 2020-21

An online search will enable you to review gap programs that conform to this year’s constraints. These programs allow you to assist those people most in need in your area as a result of the pandemic. A few of the programs are described below:

1. Global Citizen Year – When Covid-19 struck, Global Citizen Year converted its international travel-based gap program into a virtual leadership course. Among the features of the program is that students will be matched with mentors in their planned profession who will coach them on a one-on-one basis toward their goals.

2.  Americorp – This national service initiative is recruiting for programs like VISTA, whose            volunteers work on poverty-related projects all over the United States. AmeriCorps covers living expenses and includes an education award to help pay college costs. See additional options on this site.

3. Service Year Alliance – This nonprofit lists even more gap year activities than Americorp. It focuses on areas such as the environment, health and nutrition. aging, disability, homelessness and housing, disaster, animals, and public safety. Taking a Service Year provides you with an opportunity to develop real-world skills through hands-on service to those in need. A stipend is paid to participants.

4. The 2020 Election Gap Year Program – This organization’s mission is to: “Empower our nation’s youth to take an intentional gap year in 2020 to work on an election campaign or for an issues-based organization that resonates with their values.”  ​The program lets you engage in our democracy. You’ll defer college by taking a gap semester in fall 2020 so that you can dedicate yourself to campaign work, getting out the vote, or organizing around an issue that’s important to you. The organization provides assistance in obtaining permission from your college.

The Benefits of a Gap Year

A gap year is more than a way to cope with the present moment. In recent years, there has been increasing awareness of the benefits of gap years to students and colleges. This accounts for the growth in the number of students requesting permission to take a gap year and the willingness of colleges to grant them.

Conceptually, the purpose of a freshman gap year is to allow a student who has been driven to excel throughout high school some time to relax and reassess while engaging in a purposeful pursuit. For example, Harvard’s rationale for their gap program is: “Harvard College encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way — provided they do not enroll in a degree-granting program at another college.”

 Some colleges provide a structured, pre-approved approach to gap year activity. The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill offers incoming students the opportunity to participate in their Global Gap Year Fellowship, which is described as  “…the only college-sponsored gap year program that allows students to design their own gap-year experience. Fellows are encouraged to create their service-based gap years with the full support and guidance of our staff and faculty.”

In addition to college-sponsored gap programs, there’s a growing mini-industry of gap program providers. Many of these organizations, such as Outward Bound and National Outdoor Leadership School, are members of the American Gap Association, a professional group that sets standards and accredits participants.

Gap Year Pros and Cons:

Like all important decisions, you should consider the pros and cons of taking a gap year between high school and college. Below are those associated with an academic year that doesn’t have the added pressures of 2020.

Pros:

1. After the intensive grind of college admissions… you’re fried! You’ll benefit from being in a non-competitive environment for a while to assure that you’ll be at your best when you begin college. You’ll return from your gap year with your vitality restored and your focus sharpened,

2. Research (see Middlebury College website) indicates that students who have taken a gap year perform better in college than those who have not,

3. It allows you to learn about an unfamiliar culture and region,

4. You’ll have an opportunity to become fluent in another language by immersing yourself with native speakers,

5. It enables you to develop leadership and self-reliance skills, and to grow in maturity, independence, and self-confidence.

6. Participating in a gap year program displays the qualities that post-college employers will be looking for in professional hires, and,

7. During your gap year, you’ll be part of a community of peers with aspirations and goals like yours. You’ll form lifelong friendships.

Cons:

1. A major reason why most students choose not to take a gap year is that they don’t want to fall out of step with their class. Their friends will be going away to college in August and they want to share that experience,

2. Certain financial aid programs require students to attend college without a break in order to remain eligible for funding each year, and,

3. Packaged gap programs can be expensive. If your family is stretching its budget to pay for college, the added cost of a gap program may be too much. However, low cost options such as AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps are likely to be approved by your college.

For more thoughts on gap years, visit this earlier post.  And, as always, contact me with any questions – [email protected]

The earth has shifted for most American colleges

The admissions results for the Class of 2024 may be the final snapshot of a passing era. The deadline for applications was the end of January. Decisions were announced in late March. By April 1, most colleges had ceased operation due to the pandemic. Therefore, admissions to the Class of 2024 were not affected by the pandemic, but next year’s certainly will be.

Since decisions were released, the pandemic has frustrated those admittees who must choose from multiple acceptance offers. For those who have made their choice, the pandemic is interfering with all that normally precedes the fall semester.

Exactly what the fall semester will entail is unclear. Most college administrations are undecided, Columbia Universibut some have announced that students will be on campus in the fall with social distancing rules in place. Others have determined that they’ll only offer online classes in the fall. Many students will need to weigh the health risk of the full campus experience against the safety of virtual classrooms. Understandably, a higher than usual percentage of students are considering taking a gap year.

The earth has shifted for most American colleges

They will be severely tested by the decline in revenue that the pandemic is causing. Many will be forced to reduce their budgets, which may mean cuts to faculty, curricula, majors, residential and campus amenities, sports, recreational and cultural programs, and other features of a college’s value to students. This portends significant changes to the historical patterns of college admissions.

One positive result of this unpredictability is that waitlisted students are much more likely to be admitted. Concern over potentially low yield rates has motivated even the most elite colleges to go deeper into their waitlists than in the past. If you’re waitlisted, don’t hesitate to call an admissions office for an update on your status.

Although there were a few anomalies in the 2020 results, most colleges, especially the most highly selective ones, continued their pre-pandemic trend towards more applications and lower admissions rates. Table A shows the rates for a sampling of highly selective and popular regional institutions compared to their rates in 2019. Following Table A are comments about a few of the colleges.

 Table A: Admission Rates for the Class of 2024 (Fall 2020)

 

Institution

Class of 2024

Admission Rate (%)

    Class of 2023

Admission Rate (%)

American University 38              35
Amherst College 12              11
Barnard College 11              11
Boston College 24              27
Boston University 19              18
Bowdoin College 8                9
Brown University 7                7
CalTech 6                6
Carleton College 20             19
Clemson University 47             47
Colby College 9             10
Columbia Int’l University 34             33
Columbia University 6               5
Cornell University 11             11
Dartmouth College 9               8
Duke University 8               7
Emory University 20            27
Emory (Oxford) 23            20
Fordham 46            44
Furman College 61            61
Georgia Tech 20            19
Georgetown University 15            14
George Washington 39            41
Harvard University 5              5
Johns Hopkins University 9              9
Lander University 43           43
Limestone College 14           14
Macalester College 37           31
Middlebury College 24           16
MIT 7             7
New York University 15          16
Northeastern 19          18
Northwestern University 9            9
Princeton University 6            6
Rice University 10            9
Swarthmore College 9            9
Tufts University 15         15
University of Chicago 6           6
University of Georgia 46         45
University of Florida 29         34
University of Notre Dame 17         16
University of Pennsylvania 8           7
Univ. Southern California 16         11
Univ. of South Carolina 63         63
University of Virginia 21         24
Vanderbilt University 9           8
Washington University 13          14
Wellesley College 19          20
Wesleyan University 20          16
Wofford College 64          66
Yale University 6.5            5

Middlebury College: The admissions rate at Middlebury retreated sharply from 16% in 2019 to 24% in 2020. No explanation has been provided by the school’s press office.

Emory University: Emory’s admissions rate tightened from 27% in 2019 to 21% this year.

Brown University: Brown’s results for the Early Decision cycle saw applications up to an all-time high of 4,562. Its ED admissions rate was the lowest in the school’s history at 18%. However, the Regular Decision rate rose from 2019, bringing the overall admissions rate more in line with past results at 7%.

University of Southern California: USC’s acceptance rate increased to 16% for the Class of 2024, up from 11% in 2019. The University received 6,000 fewer applications in 2020 than in 2019. This is the first year that prospective students applied to the University after the Varsity Blues scandal, and the results are considered a reflection of that fact.

Wesleyan University: Wesleyan accepted 2,351 students to the Class of 2024 out of 12,752 applicants. While the University has experienced an upward trend in applications in the past, the applicant pool was smaller than usual this year. As a result, the admissions rate eased from 16% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

Williams College: Williams admitted more students than usual this year in anticipation of a less predictable yield. Over the last five years, the College has accepted an average of 1,197 students for a target class size of 550. This year, Williams admitted 1,250, making it one of the few colleges that anticipated the potential ramifications of the pandemic in its early stages.

I’ve guided hundreds of students to college success, let me be your guide as well! Email me at [email protected]

COVID-19 Induced Options for the Classes of 2020 and 2021

This is a very difficult time for our country and the world. Among the most significantly affected are those students about to graduate from high school or those beginning their college search while being unable to visit colleges or speak to other students. Hang in there with me as a wade into why a gap yer may be a great idea for some high school students.

I am concerned about these students for a number of reasons. These are the kids whose stress level has always been very high. They are bombarded by the perceived need to take the most difficult courses, to get almost perfect test scores, and to simultaneously be intricately involved in a series of activities within which they are all expected to achieve leadership roles. Now in their junior or senior year of high school, the uncontrollable monster arrives, and no one has the answer to how to make the world safe.

Can you see how this added stress and inability to control their lives would affect a population that is already stretched to the max? There is no way to convince these young adults that the world will ever be safe for them again, because we don’t believe that ourselves.

Those of us who lived through prior national and international crises see this one differently. Unlike after the 1960s riots, an election will not change the history of race relations. Unlike after 9/11, there is not a visible enemy to fight against. This virus came out of the blue and is taking down the world. Governments do not have the answer. Religious leaders don’t have the answer. Scientists are working diligently to unravel the mystery themselves.

A Class Missing Out

The graduating class of 2020, will not have graduation ceremonies, proms and the normal celebratory trappings of their senior year.   Plus, they must decide which admission offers to take without another visit to confirm their choices. They don’t know if they will be taking classes in lecture halls or on their computers. They don’t know if they will be safe on the campus they choose.

The conditions they used to decide which colleges to apply to may have changed significant. In some cases, the family’s finances may have become shaky. In others, going far away from home is no longer as attractive as it may once have been. For others, the family may have endured illness or even death at the hand of Covid-19.

The Class of 2021 is in its Own Quandary

How to they make decisions when the world is upside down? What records will colleges look at more stringently next year than they would have in past years? Will their academic record be valued now that its delivery method has changed? How do activities continue to be meaningful in the era of social distancing? With standardized tests being repeatedly cancelled, will they play any part in the process? For kids who do better with in-person rather than virtual tutoring, how do they get that when they can’t leave their homes?

For both classes, what happens to the students who were hanging on to their mental stability by a thread and now have something to be really anxious about?  How do we help them maintain their mental health when they cannot socialize as normal teenagers do?

I suggest that we remove the stress from these kids and offer some alternatives to what they view as life-or-death decisions. Consider a gap year! I am not talking about putting off college forever or backpacking through Europe.

But how about letting these kids take a year where they can get a job and attend college at night or online? Perhaps a different kind of learning in which they intern or volunteer in the type of setting they have chosen as a possible career, to see if that’s the right road for them when they finally do begin college.

In addition to the mental health benefits of a gap year, there’s the added benefit having  another year to mature and to make some money to help fund their college educations or to help the family. If they volunteer in the gap year, they are helping others who are less fortunate than they are. There is always someone who is worse off than you are. Make the offer to your kids and let them think about it for a bit before making a decision. You may be surprised at the relief you and they will feel when leaving home is put off for a bit.

If you need help putting together a meaningful plan, call me!