28th July 2020

Universities are still sorting through some difficult options as they prepare for the first full school year since the Covid-19 pandemic. Some schools that aren’t in infection hot spots plan to open as usual – for now. Others, have moved their classes online. Housing is another concern as sharing dorms and communal bathrooms could increase the risk of students spreading the disease.

No matter how your child’s school decides to address these challenges, it’s likely that the “traditional” university experience will be diminished this year. Here are three reasons why taking a gap year could be a better use of your student’s time and financial resources than paying high fees for virtual higher learning.

University is already stressful.

Even type-A overachievers can have trouble adjusting to living and learning on their own in a university environment. Covid-19 could make going away to uni even more stressful. Is your child going to be uncomfortable in social and educational situations that aren’t ideal for social distancing? Does your child have any pre-existing health conditions that might put them at risk? Will your child be able to adjust on the fly if learning or living conditions have to be altered?

Your home might not be as exciting as a big university, but it’s certainly more stable. Given how unexpectedly Covid-19 can affect communities, talk to your child about what kind of environment will be best for their education this year.

University is already expensive.

Many schools that have committed to virtual learning aren’t scaling down their tuition fees to match that diminished experience. Zoom lectures and study groups could be worth the cost for older students who are nearing graduation or working on a dissertation project, but perhaps not for first year students. Find out if your child’s school has set up any gap year programs for students who are delaying in-person enrollment or partnered with any online-only universities.

University is not the only way to learn.

One positive of the Covid-19 quarantine was that it forced all of us to slow down for a few weeks and take stock of what’s really important. We spent more time talking to our friends and families. We learned how to cook, draw, speak Spanish, and play music. We read books we’d never had time for and tried new hobbies we’d always been curious about. We gained new life and working skills that will help us going forward.

Taking a gap year can have many of the same benefits. In between earning a few online credits, your child could take a part-time job at a company they’re interested in. They could volunteer at an organization that serves a cause they want to study. They could use the money they save on housing costs to rent an apartment and get used to setting their own schedule, paying bills, and managing their time effectively. They can explore their passions in a real-world environment to make sure they’re committing their time and money to an academic major that will make them happy and productive members of society.

University is a major transition that we’ve been anticipating on your $Lifeline. We understand that Covid-19 could affect that planning. Let’s talk about the information you’re getting from your child’s school and figure out the best options for your students, your family, and your finances.