(CBS NEWS) – From senior prom to graduation ceremonies, the coronavirus has taken away a lot of milestones for the nation’s high school seniors.
With plenty of uncertainty in the coming months and experts warning of a possible second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, a growing number of seniors are considering taking a year off before heading to college.
Many universities are exploring a shortened fall semester with widespread contact tracing, social distancing, quarantine protocols and remote learning, far from the traditional “freshman experience.”
A survey from Art & Science Group finds 16% of incoming students may take a gap year and another 17% are considering deferring enrollment until the spring of 2021.
Gap year advisor Julia Rogers says that while travel may not be an option this year, there are other productive ways to spend the time.
“It’s an opportunity for you to get outside the bubble that you’ve grown up in and kind of figure how you want to contribute to your greater community and global community, and to prepare for adulthood in a meaningful way,” Rogers says.
When high school senior Hannah Jimenez was accepted into college she never thought about taking a gap year, but then the coronavirus hit.
“It’s this question of, is it worth paying that tuition and staying at home instead of doing something maybe a bit more worthwhile with our time,” Jimenez says. “So I think for myself and a lot of my peers, deferring for a year has definitely become an option.”
Jimenez hasn’t finalized her fall plan yet. If she decides on a gap year she may become a contact tracer, collecting data on who’s come in contact with an infected person. Jimenez says, “I think that’s a way to spend my time well, and help the cause, and maybe go to school sooner.”
Rogers says there are plenty of enriching volunteer opportunities for young people in their own communities, making a gap year during the pandemic both valuable, and cost-effective.