Graduates who decided to take gap year

Pandemic increases students deciding to put off college

When 2020 Miramonte graduate Lauren Owens got into Princeton University last spring, she was ecstatic. Her years of hard work and dedication had culminated in acceptance to one of America’s most prestigious universities. But when Princeton announced their plans to have an online fall semester for their undergraduate students, Owens was left with a major choice: 

“In my mind, I had two options, either sit in my bedroom on Zoom for a year and then have three years of college, or work and travel for a year and then have four years of college. I didn’t think there was much of a contest there, so I requested a deferral and luckily got one,” Owens said.

Owens was not alone in her decision. According to a memo released by Jill Dolan, Dean of the College at Princeton, enrollment at Princeton dropped 13 percent this year, as 217 first-year students and 496 continuing students opted to take a gap year. At Harvard and Yale, nearly 20 percent percent of first-year students choose to take a gap year, according to reports by the Harvard Crimson and the Yale Daily News.

In a normal year, there’s a variety of reasons for students to take a gap year. Many students want a break from school, while others want the opportunity to work or travel. In this unique year, however, there are even more reasons to defer their admission to the next season. 

“I took a gap year mainly because of the effects of COVID on college life. Academics being online was a big reason, but social stuff is vastly different. This year, there are no sports, greek life is online, clubs, dorms, and intramural sports, and even dining halls have all been canceled or significantly altered,” 2020 Miramonte graduate and future Purdue student James Neff said.

Safety and tuition also raise questions. The majority of universities do not offer reduced tuition prices, including schools that are conducting online learning. For those schools that are conducting in-person learning, safety remains an issue. Outbreaks have occurred at universities across the nation, which threaten the safety of students and faculty alike. 

According to the New York Times, there have been over 397,000 COVID cases at colleges across the nation, with at least 90 deaths. 

Taking a gap year allowed Miramonte graduates to explore various opportunities that would not be possible if they went directly to college. Neff participated in many different activities that would not be available to him if he’d decided to attend Purdue University this year.  

“I took a gap year mainly because of the effects of COVID on college life, but I’ve been able to coach the swim team and volunteer at the USS Hornet, which is an aircraft carrier museum in Alameda. I’ve also been able to spend an extra year with my family,” Neff said. 

Owens worked multiple jobs this fall and will travel to South America in March to participate in a study abroad program with other college students.

 “I think working has been a great experience because it’s just been so different (and a welcome break!) from being in school all the time. There is a lot of responsibility and time management involved, and all of my jobs are really different, so it has been nice to have so much variety. I’m super excited to travel this spring because I will get to meet so many new people and try new things in a new place I’ve always wanted to go,” Owens said. 

Standout lacrosse player and 2020 Miramonte graduate Boo Dewitt originally planned to attend the University of California, Berkeley but recommitted to Dartmouth University on Sept. 3 of 2020. Like Neff, Dewitt did not want her freshman year in college to be consumed by COVID. “I also really did not want to go to college during a pandemic so I took a gap year with the hope that I would have a normal freshman year and freshman lacrosse season,” Dewitt said. 

Dewitt has accomplished a multitude of things over her gap year. In addition to training for her first lacrosse season next year, Dewit gained valuable work experience. 

“My gap year allowed me to get some work experience and take a break from school. This has made me more excited than ever to get back to learning. It also gave me a lot of time to work on myself as an athlete by allowing me to hone in on my skills and fitness,” Dewitt said.

While colleges may offer some form of schooling, the typical college experience has been greatly impacted. As these Miramonte graduates showed, taking a gap year allowed them to explore different ventures and make the most of what was an objectively horrible year.