Taking A Gap Year During A Pandemic: Is It Worth It?

Social distancing is one way to help contain coronavirus, which caused a global pandemic, affecting the way people live. Universities and colleges had to shift from face-to-face to online classes to comply with health safety protocols. In Fall 2020, 10 percent of colleges are fully online and only four percent are in person.

About 40 percent of students, however, are not completely ready for this sudden change. A survey revealed 55 percent of students are worried about the lack of social interactions, while 45 percent are worried about their academic performance. The home situation of some students is also not suitable for online learning.

Because of these concerns, some students choose or considering taking a gap year. But is it worth it during a pandemic?

Why Students Take a Gap Year?

The Gap Year Association (GYA) describes a gap year as a year of experiential learning. Students usually take it after high school or before starting a post-graduate education. The gap year aims to help students deepen their practical, professional, and personal awareness.

Students have different reasons for taking a gap year. Some spend their time off to travel, while others get part-time jobs or do volunteer works. According to the GYA, the vital components of a quality gap year include identifying intentions, expanding one’s comfort zones, having cross-cultural experiences, and reflecting on those experiences.

Taking an intentional gap year benefits students in many ways. For example, it helps them have a better grasp of what they want to study. It can also help them stay focused on their studies, especially if they take the gap year before going to college. Some students experience better earning and business potential, as well.

Not everyone, however, can take a year off. You still have to get approval from your college, depending on their deferral policy. Some colleges grant one automatically, while others check its merits before approving your request.

If you have the opportunity to take a gap year, make it as productive as possible to make the most of your time off.

Making Your Gap Year Worthwhile

Taking a year off from school may not be ideal amid a pandemic. But it can be a better option than taking online classes, knowing you can’t perform well. If you’re taking a gap year, make sure to plan it carefully and do something that can improve yourself.

Here are three activities you can consider doing during your gap year.

1. Acquire new skills

woman studying

One of the best ways to use your free time is to learn new skills. For example, taking Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training allows you to help nurses in taking care of patients. You can work in hospitals, nursing homes, and residential care centers. It does not require a college degree and you can finish the program in months. The average salary for CNAs is $32,050 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There are a lot of skills worth learning, such as languages, coding, digital marketing, and photography. You can find plenty of free resources online you can take at your own pace. It can help you realize what you like and don’t like, which allows you to make a smart decision when choosing a course in college. These skills can also come in handy after you graduate.

2. Work to save money

Despite shifting to online classes, many colleges are still taking full tuition. The hefty price tag makes students and parents hesitant of returning to college. If you’re lucky to take a gap year, consider getting a job locally so you can save extra money. Many companies are still hiring even amid the pandemic.

When finding a job, be as flexible as possible. Try applying to different companies, particularly the essential businesses, even if you’re not familiar with them. If your work puts you in contact with the public, make sure to follow health guidelines to keep yourself safe.

3. Find volunteer opportunities

Another fulfilling way to spend your time off is to help your community through volunteer works. You can find different volunteer opportunities that suit your interest area. It allows you to apply to use your skills while giving back.

Most volunteer works happen in person, so it’s vital to observe health protocols. If you’re not comfortable exposing yourself to the public, there are plenty of virtual initiatives you can participate in. Start looking for volunteer opportunities in your area, then try nationally or internationally.

Take time to plan your gap year carefully to ensure you will have the best time. Doing something productive during your time off lets you experience the benefits of the gap year compared to not doing anything for an entire year. Reach out to other people you know who also took a gap year to give you some advice.

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