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The Ivy Coach Daily

May 16, 2020

Gap Years for the Affluent

There’s an article up on Bloomberg Businessweek that focuses on how many affluent high school seniors have the option to take a gap year during these uncertain times whereas less affluent high school seniors have no such luxury. In the piece, entitled “The Covid-19 College Gap Year Exposes a Great Economic Divide,” Janet Lorin writes, “Students taking gap years tend to be more affluent, better able to afford a $75,000-a-year private college—and the expense of taking an extended break before enrolling. But if too many of them put off their studies, it could smash the economic model underpinning the U.S.’s $600 billion-plus higher education industry. Private colleges rely on tuition and fees for 30% of their revenue.”

Gap Years Are Indeed a Luxury of the Affluent

We don’t disagree with Ms. Lorin that even thinking about taking a gap year is a luxury of the privileged. And while more students are likely going to be choosing to take a gap year next year than in any year in history, we wish to stress to our readers that the vast majority of students — even students from affluent backgrounds — will not be going the gap year route. Even Ms. Lorin writes, “In a recent survey of 6,700 parents and students, most of them high school seniors, Maguire found that 12% are considering deferring enrollment this fall, many times the typical proportion. Even worse, 30% of international students, who generally pay a college’s full cost, are considering a postponement.” Let’s read that data again. 12% of domestic respondents are considering taking a gap year. 30% of international respondents are considering a gap year. These percentages aren’t as high as many seem to believe.

But We’re Against Gap Years During This Pandemic

We can only speak from our experience. We work with many affluent families. Heck, let’s be frank: if they can afford our college counseling services, it’s not their last two dimes. And yet the vast majority of our students who earned admission to the colleges of their dreams this year will not be going the gap year route next year. Sure, it’s not ideal that they’ll be beginning their college experience potentially online. It’s not ideal that they don’t even yet know if college will be online or in person this fall. But what alternative do these students have? Are they going to travel the world during this scary epidemic? Are they going to finish Netflix? Our students need to stay engaged and to do so they need to begin their college experience — whether it’s online or not. If they’re going to be home in their childhood bedrooms, they might as well be taking their college courses like so many other students throughout the world.

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