Consider a gap year

Margaret Butler

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has been exceptionally mentally, physically and financially draining. 

In order to alleviate all these pressures, UT students should consider taking a gap year after college or even during their undergraduate career, especially during these uncertain times.

My gap year was the most incredible experience of my life. It may sound cheesy, but I am a completely different person because of it. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to travel the world volunteering and working. I have truly grown from my experience in terms of my world view, soft skills and understanding of what I want out of my college experience. Taking time off after high school allowed me to mentally recharge after being in school for the last 12 years and begin my freshman year with renewed motivation and excitement. I encourage everyone to do the same, even if it’s only for a semester. 

Nutrition freshman Jamie Kornreich agrees there is a lot to gain from taking some time off, especially when no one is getting the traditional college experience due to COVID-19.

“With everything going on, there are more important things than a college degree,” Kornreich said. “Sometimes you need a mental break. Your health is the most important thing.” 

Taking time off can help combat academic burnout. As I mentioned before, most students have been going to school for upwards of 12 years straight, and they are exhausted, just like I was. Taking a gap year or semester can help students return to college motivated and refreshed. 

Zoom burnout is real, too. Many students are currently seated in the same room, staring at the same screen for most of the day. Although traveling around the world is off the table right now, taking a break from your screen and exploring the great outdoors within the United States can grant students a much needed break from technology.  

In the MyStatus portal, UT students can submit an appeal for a semester or year long deferral period. In the appeal, students can explain their reasoning for deferral and what they would do with their time. This doesn’t have to mean the end of your college career. In fact, the Gap Year Association website asserts that 90 % of students who took a gap year returned to college within a year. 

Moreover, many colleges are charging full tuition prices for online classes, and many students believe they have no choice but to pay these high prices just to attend virtual classes. There are other options, though. Rather than going back to school for a virtual semester, consider getting an internship or a job in a field you are interested in. Not only does this allow you to save money that will be useful later on in your academic career, getting real world experience could be a great way to boost your resume and can give you the perspective you need to be confident in your future career path. 

Of course, there are cons to taking time off, and it may not be the right decision for you. 

“You could feel isolated from your peers in terms of graduating later and entering the workforce later,”  Kornreich said. 

Students on certain preprofessional tracks like medicine and law may not be able to take time off without jeopardizing the important timelines they are advised to follow. Other students may have to meet academic requirements for financial aid. 

Taking time off ended up being the best decision for me. Although I am now behind my peers, I have made so many new connections, and I believe the growth I have undergone in the last year has been well worth it. 

I encourage everyone to seriously consider all they can accomplish by taking time off school. 

Margaret Butler is an undecided freshman from Austin, Texas.