Say the phrase ‘college experience’ and romanticized images of ivy-laced stone, crowded lecture halls, and football games suddenly appear. We think of undergraduates pursuing a four year degree on campus, even when the data shows that only 60% of students will complete a degree at the same institution they start at within six years and 35% of students are taking some form of online classes. This had us wondering: with all of the changes on campus this fall as schools and students adapt to a post-coronavirus world, will they pursue begin to think of their education outside of the usual box?
To put that sentiment in a more tangible way, is this the year of the gap year? That was the question we posed to three panelists – Chloe Anagnos, Founder of Argo Strategy and writer at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal; Sarah Gladstone Smith, Director of Global Gap Year Fellowship at the University of North Carolina and a Board Member of the Gap Year Association; and Emily Zislis, a Student and Gap Year Ambassador at the University of Pennsylvania. Their answers were a resounding “yes!” After hearing Zislis’ experience taking a gap year and working with the University to get their support, the conversation quickly shifted to how schools are slowly embracing the concept. Smith believes much of the resistance stems from the fear that students will not return to the classroom. Anagnos thought lots of employers were looking for students who could pivot in a post COVID-19 world and that there is a need for students who can effectively market and communicate. She also said there is an abundance of free online classes that Ivy League schools offer, as well as certifications.