This year, some students at Miami University paused their education to let the pandemic pass.
Bethany Perkins, director of admissions at Miami, said the university usually receives about 30 requests a year for students wishing to take a gap year. But due to COVID-19, the university received 220 official requests from first-year students wishing to take a year off.
Oliva Default, a rising sophomore kinesiology major, is one of the many students taking a gap year.
“I just felt, with classes being online, I was not going to get the full experience and would be still spending a lot of money,” Default said.
For those taking gap years, financial strains leading to experiential learning are often the main cause, the New York Times reported. Many students across the country are struggling to pay tuition and do not want to spend such high amounts for a reduced college experience.
“I felt that this was the best decision for myself and my family,” Default said. “I would rather return back to campus when I am getting the best bang for my buck and what I committed for.”
Default said she was also hesitant to attend online classes, as she thinks she would do better in an in-person setting with help available.
Aside from worries of proper education and tuition, some students want to use this time to do things that will enrich their COVID-19 experience.
“I decided to take time off because all my classes are online, and the regulations off campus,” said Bradley Foren, a first-year with an undecided major. “I was worried about meeting friends being new on campus at a time like this. I thought I should go to school next year and use my time for something else. I decided to start making masks for people in my neighborhood out of boredom and discovered I love sewing. Now, I have my own online clothing business.”
In May 2020, Miami's Center for Career Exploration & Success offered an informational meeting for students thinking about using the 2020-21 school year as a gap year. The meeting explained how students could use their time beneficially and weighed the pros and the cons of the decision.
Foren says he was already thinking about this during his senior year of high school and attended the meeting. Keeping in mind the information and tips he received from the panelists, he made the decision in July to postpone his college move-in day.
“If I didn’t take this time to find myself, I would not have found my career path and would have been miserable,” Foren said. “Now, I can start my college career in a more normal way and know what I want to do with my life.”
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Default said she plans to move into Miami in the fall of 2021, a big reason being the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I will definitely be coming back to school especially with the vaccine rolling out,” Default said. “It feels safer, and Miami just announced an in-person return. I’m excited to come back and to have a normal experience again.”