As we face the next year with some uncertainty, some plans may need to shift gears to accommodate our changing environment. As colleges and universities decide whether to re-open or transition to online classes, this could be an opportunity for students to consider waiting out this period, turning their attention to other means of experiential learning.
Colleges and universities are still sorting through some difficult options as they prepare for the first full school year since the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Some schools that aren’t in infection hot spots plan to open as usual – for now. Others, including top schools like Harvard, have moved their classes online. Housing is another concern as sharing dorms and communal bathrooms could increase the risk of students spreading the disease.
No matter how your child’s school decides to address these challenges, it’s likely that the “traditional” college experience will be diminished this year.
Here are 3 reasons why taking a gap year could be a better use of your student’s time and financial resources, when compared to paying college-level fees for virtual higher learning.
1. College is already stressful, and adding stress will most likely not have a positive effect on performance.
Even type-A overachievers can have trouble adjusting to living and learning on their own in a college environment. Covid-19 could make going away to college even more stressful. Is your child going to be uncomfortable in social and educational situations that aren’t ideal for social distancing? Does your child have any preexisting health conditions that might put them at risk? Will your child be able to adjust on the fly if learning or living conditions have to be altered?
Your home might not be as exciting as a big university. But it’s certainly more stable. Given how unexpectedly Covid-19 can affect communities, talk to your child about what kind of environment will be best for their education this year.
2. College is already expensive, but you aren’t actually getting the service that you expected when you signed up.
Many schools that have committed to virtual learning aren’t scaling down their tuition fees to match that diminished experience. Zoom lectures and study groups could be worth the cost for older students who are nearing graduation or working on a thesis project. But many freshman and sophomores will be paying handily for introductory credits they might be able to earn at an in-state university or community college at a fraction of the cost. Earning a few credits during a gap year might also make your child’s eventual return to campus and a full class load easier to manage.
Have a conversation with your child and his or her guidance counselor to explore all options for earning credit this year. And make sure you ask if your child’s school has set up any gap year programs for students who are delaying in-person enrollment or partnered with any online-only universities.
Want to learn more about managing your child's finances during college?
Check out the links below:
- Important Financial Lessons for your High School and College Age Kids.
- Tips to Help your Kids Build Credit in College.
- A Parent-Student Contract: Monitoring Your Kids in College
3. College is not the only way to learn, and our ever-changing society is beginning to value extra-curricular experiences more highly.
One positive of the Covid-19 quarantine was that it forced all of us to slow down for a few weeks and take stock of what’s really important. We spent more time talking to our friends and families. We learned how to cook, draw, speak Spanish, and play music. We read books we’d never had time for and tried new hobbies we’d always been curious about. We gained new life and working skills that will help us going forward.
Taking a gap year can have many of the same benefits. In between earning a few online credits, your child could take a part-time job at a company they’re interested in. They could volunteer at an organization that serves a cause they want to study. They could use the money they save on housing costs to rent an apartment and get used to setting their own schedule, paying bills, and managing their time effectively. They can explore their passions in a real-world environment to make sure they’re committing their time and money to an academic major that will make them happy and productive members of society.
When it comes to the job search, these additional activities can give your child a competitive edge in the job market. Interesting experiences and taking the initiative all add up to a well-rounded and valuable employee.
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