Let the Waiting Games Begin.
Are your dreams of an on-campus university experience abroad shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Many students are thrown off by the idea of taking online classes this year while paying full tuition fees. Should you consider deferring your freshmen year at the university? The excitement of leaving home for an adventure, the joy of making new friends, the nervousness of whether you will get on with your room-mate. How can online class replicate these experiences? Yes, you need to think this one through.
Is There Light at the End of the COVID Tunnel this Year?
A report by McKinsey & Company, an American management consulting firm, states that normal operations may not be possible for US higher education institutes until summer 2021. Many universities in the US and across the world have closed their campuses till the end of this summer, with no mention of a reopening date.
Even if the colleges do open, the health risk is too high. Social distancing may not be possible in densely packed classrooms. An option for colleges and universities is to start the academic year on schedule although virtually.
With visa approval and travel abroad seeming like a distant dream, international students in particular need to think their options through – Deferral vs. Online classes.
Is Deferment Going to be the New Normal?
As many as 400 universities in the US have pushed deposit dates by a month, giving students more time to weigh their options. Should you enroll or defer? The answer to this million-dollar question is not easy. If you are also unable to decide whether to take a gap year or just go with the flow and sign up for online classes, here are a few tips that can help you take a call.
Things to Consider Before Opting for a Gap Year
● Deferral Policy: The devil lies in the detail. While colleges may be offering a deferral program, consider different scenarios to see whether it can work for you. Find out firstly whether your college approves the deferral request automatically, or approve basis the merit of the request? If you are eligible for any scholarships, will that resume once you are back? A leading school from the US has reached out to admitted applicants stating that should you choose to defer, there are no guarantees of when you can matriculate. It will depend on the number of deferrals. So weigh in carefully on the deferral policy your college is offering.
● Can you Afford to Defer: When opting for deferment of your education, remember that you will also be delaying the post-graduation earning period.
● Your Alternative Plans: If you are leaning towards a gap year, analyze the plans you have in mind to utilize your time positively. The gap year must be well-thought-out in order to meet learning goals and potentially add value to your future career. If you have something in mind that is exciting and meaningful, opting for a gap year can be a good deal.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
One of Writers Qi’s students, Shaamer Kumar, accepted UC Berkeley’s offer and has chosen to start this fall. He is hoping to start on campus, but should they offer only online classes for international students, he feels, “I want to get all the basic requirement courses out of the way.” His experience has been that Berkeley has been very accommodating, especially with international students.
Another student, however, wants to wait and watch. If classes go online, she plans to defer to next year and apply to a college in her hometown. While allowing her to buy time, she feels this plan will ensure a routine and build a strong foundation as well.
Should you consider deferral, our advice would be to keep busy and use this time to your advantage.
Make the Most of Your Gap Year
Here are a few things to consider on how to get the maximum bang out of the gap year experience:
● Up Your Cultural Quotient: Prepare yourself to meet and socialize with students from different ethnicities. While you may not be able to travel to different parts of the world during the pandemic, you can sign up for online museums, theatre performances and art gallery tours to learn about different regions, cultures, and languages.
● Take-up Short-Term Online Projects: Sign up for online work or virtual internships that can add credit later on. For example, if you are planning to go for Business management in the future, a part-time job as a Virtual Assistant can help you understand the basics of running a business.
● Learn a New Skill: You may consider learning a new skill such as programming, analytics, content writing, or marketing through social platforms, etc. Any skill that can help you earn some money through freelancing or working part-time is a good investment of your time and resources.
Thou Shalt Not Stop Learning
Whether or not you opt for a gap year, there must not be a gap in the learning process. Look out for various free courses available online and sign up for those most relevant to you. The pandemic situation will pass but your learnings will stay with you forever.