In the Year of COVID-19, is Taking a Gap Year the Right thing to Do?

Every year, a small percentage of high school students elects to take what is generally referred to as a “gap year” before attending college. The reasons vary between students, but overall, this group generally comprises less than 10% of graduating seniors. In 2020, as COVID-19 has completely changed the face of how we go on with our lives, studies are indicating that as many as 35% of seniors are considering taking a year off before attending the college of their choice. (

Most colleges are still undecided about whether in-classroom instruction will resume this Fall. Without in-class instruction, high school seniors are in the same situation they were during the final months of their senior year: online classes. It became obvious over the last two months that students in both high school and college are not fans of online instruction. (That’s good news for our teachers across the globe.) Remove the classroom experience and you are also taking away the socialization and maturity that comes from young adults living together in dormitories and learning how to fend for themselves and find their own way. Maturing into adults is one of the major outcomes of college and something that will be hampered by taking online classes.

Should Your Child Consider a Gap Year?

With the interaction of the classroom or the socialization of living with a large group of their peers potentially being taken away, should your child consider taking a gap year? The answer may lie in what they choose to do with it. If your senior feels they will continue working at the local fast food restaurant or the retail store at the mall, then maybe starting to take their college classes now is not such a bad idea. However, using a gap year to gain an understanding about what they really want to do long-term may produce better results later in college. So that could be a worthwhile option for many.

Taking this time to do some soul searching about what you want to do with higher education, your area of studies and, ultimately, the career of your choice can save time and money. COVID-19 aside, roughly 60% of college students do not graduate on time. At $20,000 per year or more, that extra year can impact a family’s financial picture immensely.

For those who are undecided or hesitant (or even began year 1 of college), why not take some time and figure out where your skills are, understand what you are good at and where your passion will take you? For many 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds, their areas of expertise and strengths have not been fully realized. Getting to this level of understanding about yourself and then identifying the perfect career path that aligns with your skills, abilities, passion and strengths will pay huge dividends later when you are in the classroom and studying something that is important and resonates with you.

For every student and their family, the decision about whether to take a gap year is a personal one and should be made after consulting with the college and having a family discussion. If your student is one of the many who are undecided or wavering about their area of study, taking a gap year to gain clarity about this may be the best decision you can make as a family.


Greg Emslie helps high school juniors and seniors along with college freshmen and sophomores who are struggling with choosing the major that will complement their passions, abilities, skill sets and ultimately their careers. Through his own experiences, Greg has seen the financial and emotional toll choosing the wrong major in college can have on a student and their family. Those experiences led him to develop his Steady Courses Program to help guide students and parents through the college major selection process.

Greg can be reached at

“There is So Much More than Just Figuring out what College to Choose.”

Read a real-life scenario about the financial and emotional toll that choosing the wrong major in college can have on a student and their family. We’re thankful to Lauren for sharing her experience and hope you find it helpful as you embark on selecting your college major.

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