Are they worth it?
By: Jessica Gearey
With the university application deadline looming upon us, some of us might be scrambling to get last minute recommendation letters, while others lay back and enjoy the relief of not having to go to university just yet.
Gap years are usually a time to travel, make some money and lay back until you figure out where you want to go in life. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are other factors to take into account.
In normal circumstances, Emmett Boyle, a fourth semester Social Science student, wouldn’t have considered taking a gap year. “Personally, I think it’s kind of pointless,” he says. “I would just want to get it over with right away.”
Others have taken a different approach to the situation. Beth Fecteau, a fourth semester Literature student, had already planned on taking a gap year. “I want to be sure before I go into university,” she says. She adds, however, that the possibility of online school gives her more of a reason to take a gap year. Fecteau explains that not only has her focus decreased during the past semester, but, now that the ability to communicate with her peers is minimal, she’s noticed her performance has been affected. “Blending my school and personal life and environment makes it worse,” she adds.
One of the disadvantages of taking a gap year that has some students concerned is the idea of losing focus and momentum. Sarah Hylland, a freshman at McGill, cites this reason: “I think people will always find excuses in that year to not go back and personally the ones that do go back end up dropping out anyway.” Like Dawson, McGill is said to have had a high dropout rate following the Fall 2020 semester. “McGill is creating awareness around how hard online school has been, and that is why the government is trying to put in measures to get students back in school,” Hylland says.
Is taking a gap year worth it? Well for some the answer is easier than others. Julia Quynh, a fourth semester Cinema and Communications student, moved back home to Singapore following the pandemic. “It’s been really rocky and stressful trying to cope with the past year,” she explains. Because Quynh is an international student and lives in a different time zone, the transition to online school has been difficult. “I think that if I wasn’t taking a gap year, and instead going to university online again, I might lose it,” she jokes. Even after she made her decision, she had some doubts. “For a few days, I felt lost as to how to spend the next year,” she says. However, Quynh quickly realized the usefulness of pressing pause on school: “It would help me take a step back and re-evaluate what I want to do with my life.”
So, what exactly would you do with your gap year during a pandemic? Since travel is not really an option, Fecteau says she plans on making use of her time by working. “Just trying to build up some savings,” she explains, “also take some time to pursue some of my other passions that are not scholarly.” Fecteau is trying to prioritize thinking about what she wants to do with her future and trying to really take the time to be careful.
Gap years can be tricky and might not suit everyone. Some might need the release of not having academic responsibilities, and some might need productivity. Keep in mind what you feel is best for yourself and your future, but also take care of yourself so you can get to that future.