COLORADO SPRINGS — With colleges working to solidify operation plans for the fall and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic lingering into the second half of 2020, an increasing number of students are weighing their options.
The coronavirus will impact what education will look like and it has some students, especially incoming freshmen, considering taking a gap year, gap semester, or possibly not enrolling at all. News5 looked into how colleges are approaching gap years and what students should consider.
"There definitely is a surge, an increased interest, across the gamut of students and families considering a gap year," said Director and Founder of Rainbow EDU Consulting and Tutoring, Cindy Chanin.
Chanin helps students plan and navigate their educational futures. She said a gap year away from college can be a major positive for life experiences, but it starts with planning and making sure you're on the same page with your college.
"Some colleges are very happy to accommodate and others are freaking out because they need to meet their yield. They are tuition dependent and if too many students elect to not enroll this year, they're not going to survive," said Chanin.
News5 asked UCCS what it is experiencing and the options it has available for students.
"For UCCS, our enrollment is looking fairly strong compared to where it looked like two months ago. But at the same time, we know that a lot of families and students are asking these questions. For us, we do defer admissions so if a student is accepted and then later decided that they just want to wait they don't have to reapply. They're still good for the following year," said UCCS Spokesman Jared Verner.
CSU-Pueblo announced it is freezing tuition and provided News5 with a statement that reads in part:
"At this time, CSU Pueblo has received very limited inquiries from incoming or prospective students who are interested in taking a gap year. We encourage students to make the decision that is best for them and their families, and are doing what we can to ensure they have access to financial support and other resources they need, whenever they choose to attend."
At Colorado College, students apply and the staff approves gap years, but it's something students have often applied for.
"In a typical year, about 10% of our students will take a gap year before entering CC. So it's often been a popular option for cohorts. We are seeing a slight uptick in interest especially those students who are considering just taking a gap semester and joining us at the beginning of spring term," said Colorado College Director of Admission Bonser.
Dylan Breglio is a student at the University of Colorado. He took a gap year last year.
"When I took a gap year it was pretty unique, but not necessarily unheard of... I think it makes a lot of sense especially right now," said Breglio.
Breglio offers this advice to fellow students as they make plans for the fall.
"My advice would be to look into some gap year programs and learn more about what they're about and a gap year doesn't make sense for everybody, but I think it's a great opportunity for a lot of students to take a year and mature and let things become more concrete in their mind," said Breglio.
If you want to know more about a gap year, here's how to get started.
"If (students) can make a pros-and-cons list right now and then go online or make a list of the specific people they would need to contact from their intended major, or from the department that they have been accepted into, financial aid or admission and then with this clarity in mind start a conversation and ask what their options are," said Chanin.
Here are some things to consider if you are looking at taking a gap year:
- Gap year programs can be limited
- The sooner you apply, the better chances of getting approved by your college or university to take the gap year
- If you have scholarships, you could potentially lose them
- If you aren't enrolled odds are you'll have to make student loan payments six months after you leave school
- If you take a gap year, you might have to reapply to regain admission. According to the Department of Education, even with an approved leave of absence, you can miss only 180 days in a 12-month period
Rather than taking a gap year, there are other options:
- Take online classes at a community college. You should apply soon because those spots are filling up. A lot of the community colleges reported they are facing over-enrollment
- Students are encouraged to apply and soon as possible and to check with your university to make sure the classes will transfer
- Take a gap semester instead of a full year
- If you decide not to take classes this semester, work with your school to take an official leave of absence
- You could reduce your class load
To contact Cindy Chanin for her advice visit: https://rainboweduconsulting.com/