Taking A Gap Year or Leave of Absence: CampusChat Live

CampusChat Live: Gap Year Planning

With the uncertainty of the coronavirus, students are considering taking a gap year or a leave of absence. We're going to be defining and discussing your options, how to take local community college classes, and some volunteer ideas during social distancing.

Posted by Smart College Visit on Thursday, April 30, 2020

On Thursday, April 30, the Smart College Visit team celebrated “National Decision Day” Eve on Facebook Live. We’re usually celebrating all the college decisions being made, but instead we covered taking the gap year or a leave of absence path. These non-traditional choices might make sense during these unprecedented times.

Kelly Queijo, Kelly Rawlings, and Kiley Thompson explained what the difference is between a gap year and a leave of absence, why putting a matriculation deposit down now is extra important, why communication with your university and advisors matter so much, and how you can spend your time if you do decide on some time “off.”

Gap Year

If you’re a incoming college student, that is, a high school senior moving on to college, you can choose to take a year “off” before entering your chosen university. To do this, you contact admissions, and ask to moved to the next fall semester. Usually, they’ll ask you what your plans are, so be prepared to answer that question. And as Kelly Rawlings said in the video, coronavirus shouldn’t be the only reason you want to take a gap year.

RELATED: Coronavirus Impact: What Has Your College Decided for Fall 2020?

If it is approved, you’ll start the next year. If it isn’t, prepare to reapply as a freshman again (no, seriously), or you can withdraw and perhaps pursue another university.

Will all gap year requests be approved this year? It seems highly unlikely because a lot of students are asking or preparing to ask for a gap year. So if you want to ask, go with a solid plan on what you’re going to do for the next year.

Also, and this is important, don’t plan on taking classes elsewhere while on a gap year. Universities may frown on that. Again, talk with admissions or the registrar, or your major’s advisor about that option.

Leave of Absence

Are you already a college student? A “gap year” for you is actually called a leave of absence. If you need a break and have chosen not to return to your college or university for a semester, you need to contact your advisor to apply for a leave of absence.

Right now, there are a lot of students worried about paying out-of-state tuition prices for an online experience. If this is the direction your school is taking for fall 2020, a leave of absence might be a good choice for you until things return to “normal.”

You can, with advisor and university approval, take local community college classes towards your degree. Research those classes and your university’s equivalency very carefully, and get all those approvals in rock-solid writing too before pursuing those classes!

Volunteering, Passion Projects, Family Needs and More

The traditional “I’m going to travel” option is currently limited. So what should you do during this time? Volunteering is a great way to build up some real world contacts and experiences. Volunteer options are mushrooming right now, and changing too. Research your local area, and your chamber of commerce to find out more. Unpaid internships can also be found as businesses start or restart after lockdown.

Additionally, time for something you love or want to do more of, in a constructive manner, is also a valid choice. Your mental health and well-being might be better for it too.

Finally, don’t be afraid to make tough choices. You need an educational timeline that works best for you, your wallet, and your family at this time. Have questions? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter! We’d be happy to help.

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