Should You Take A Gap Year If Your School Is Going Online?

By Madison White on June 20, 2020

Taking a gap year is a complicated choice that involves thinking critically and asking the right questions. Here are a few to get you started:

Are online classes conducive to your major?

College classes look different for everybody so which major you have chosen might play a big part in whether or not you choose to take a gap year. Some classes require a large amount of independent work and can work well through online mediums. Classes through the Liberal Arts alongside Business and other categories may be well-suited to these formats.

On the other hand, there are a variety of majors that would be severely impacted by going online. Majors that require physical training—like medical and nursing degrees—would be very difficult to complete online. This also applies to some Fine Arts degrees like Theater, Ceramics, and Music. Some degrees that go over new and particularly challenging material, like some engineering degrees, may be too hard for students to get through during an online format.

If you are pursuing a degree that is made complicated by online formats, don’t despair completely. If you are still early on in your college career, this could be a great time to finish some of the required classes that you need to take. An online semester could be a wonderful opportunity to finish out any classes that you must finish before earning your degree. This could be anything from English to Biology to Liberal Arts and other electives. Then, you can plan on using the following years to complete the classes that more directly relate to your major during in-person semesters.

Do online classes fit with your learning personality?

It is well known that many students struggled to adjust to online classes this spring, for good reason. Studying during a pandemic is something that is difficult for everyone. However, some students struggled more than others. This is because each student has a very different way of learning and how they approach their classes. For some students, online classes are a fairly easy and convenient way to learn, and for others, they are the worst thing to ever happen in education. Which are you?

Someone who loves online classes likely values the flexibility of the schedule. If they have other things going on, they likely adore getting to decide when to do their work. They are able to stay on top of things and can set small goals for themselves. They have no issues emailing their professors and enjoy using a variety of technological tools, including new ones. They might prefer to read the material themselves rather than participate in a discussion during class. Perhaps they enjoy videos that they can watch multiple times until they understand it.

A person who hates online classes really values learning from an engaging professor and classroom setting. They may find trouble setting a schedule for themselves and sticking to it so the regular class times help keep them on track. They love speaking up in class and socializing and find reading kind of boring. They get along fine with technology, but it isn’t their favorite thing ever.

You could very well fall in between these two categories of students as there are more ways of learning than can be listed here. If you are considering taking a gap year, or not, you should heavily consider how your learning style fits into online classes. You likely already have some experience with online classes and can gauge how those went for you. Depending on your answers, this could easily influence whether or not going ahead with an online semester is a good idea or if your time would be better used as a gap year.


If you take a gap year, is there a strong chance you won’t return to school?

Taking a gap year can be both illuminating and risky. For some, it means time to regroup and rest before returning to school. For others, however, it can throw them off the path that they wanted to be on and make them leave college forever. You should think clearly about what the result might be of you taking a gap year. Do you think it will be easy for you to return to school or very difficult? Are you someone who likes to give up when things are difficult or do you tend to push through? For some students, a gap year gives them a break, but because they never want the break to end, they do not return to school. If this is a possibility for you, you may want to try and power through an online semester so that you are still working towards your college goals. It will likely be easier for you to keep going and push through than if you stopped and tried to go back.

What would your plans be during your gap year?

When thinking about gap years, many students either spend them working or traveling. Of course, because of the current pandemic, neither of these two things is going to be particularly easy to do. Jobs are scarce and even finding a temporary, minimum wage job might be more difficult than you’d expect. Even if you do find one, would you have okay with working that job for a year? Many students can handle part-time work like retail or jobs in the restaurant industry because it is only part of their life and they have other things going on. However, if you are taking a gap year, you will likely try to work full time and your job will quickly override most of your life.

Additionally, traveling extensively isn’t a great option at the moment either. Many countries are still shut down completely to visitors and even the ones that are open still have loads of restrictions for travelers. On top of that, airline tickets are more expensive and less reliable than before. It may also be dangerous to stay in community housing like hostels given the current situation.

Thinking about what you actually want to accomplish during your gap year should play a huge role in whether or not you decide to take one. If you have a plan that you feel will benefit you either financially or personally, then now might be a good time to go for it. On the opposite side, if you are thinking of taking a gap year with no real idea of what to do, you might find yourself stuck and frustrated.

While it is tempting to just make up a plan as you go along, you should also think through all the more logical steps of taking a gap year like where you are going to live, how you are going to pay bills and rent, where you might find a job, and so on. You don’t want to end up in a worse off place than where you started, otherwise, what would be the point in that? Will your friends also take gap years or will they be continuing their studies? It may be difficult to keep up your social lives with your friends if you are working full time and they are not. Do you have family nearby that can support you if things don’t go as planned? Sometimes even the best-laid plans can be upended by surprise layoffs and unexpected bills. It is always important to have some sort of backup plan in case something goes awry. It is also important to keep in mind that you may have to start paying student loans off after 6 months of leaving school. This could be a major dent in your income and something to consider when budgeting for your gap year ahead. Also keep in mind that you will be losing out on some student discounts you may have been taking advantage of as well as a loss of access to other student support systems like mental health services, gyms, and libraries.

What are your long term goals?

Now is the perfect time to slow down and truly examine what it is that you want from your life. The pandemic has really put some things into perspective and allowed people to better understand their passions and goals. This is very helpful for college students who might be struggling to figure out their path. It is not uncommon for many students to enter college simply because their parents want them to or because society says it is the natural course of action after high school. Many are unsure of their path and what college can really mean to them. Despite having taken some classes and dabbled in various majors, some students may still be wondering if college is really for them or if they want to take an alternate route. The current state of the world gives students a wonderful chance to rethink what exactly they want from life and if college is truly the right option for them. It also presents the opportunity to go and try something new for a while with the option to return at a later date.

If you have decided that you do want to continue in college, this might be a good idea to think closely about your major and what your plans are for when you graduate. Many students are so focused on graduating that they often forget that they need to plan for the steps that come after, which can often be very tricky and frustrating. Students may want to look into some things they can do currently to help boost their chances of success in their field. While options may be somewhat limited right now, there are still opportunities to pursue personal research and learning, reach out to professors, or undertake remote jobs or internships. The connections that you make now will likely be crucial in your success after you graduate.


Taking a gap year or not is not a simple choice of staying in school or just getting to mess around for a year. Gap years serve a critical purpose in helping young people realize their true desires in life and whether or not college can help them achieve them.

Thinking about online classes and how you handle them should be at the center of your decision. If you generally get along fine during a normal semester, but really struggled to go online, you might want to forego taking another semester or year of online classes. They could have a negative impact on your GPA as well as your mental health. On the other hand, if you seem to get along fine in online classes, this might be a great opportunity for you to get ahead on some of your required classes. While you may not find them as fun or engaging, you can usually get quite a few of them done in a shorter amount of time. Alongside this, students need to consider if their major is conducive to online learning. Some majors require in-person experiential classes which cannot happen under restricted guidelines. If you need to take these in the upcoming semester, it may not make sense for you to take online classes. Some other challenging classes may be best-taken in-person as well so that you aren’t making yourself frustrated by trying to teach difficult concepts to yourself online.

Most importantly, now is the best time for students to think deeply about what they want for their future and if college is the right path for them. Rather than just following along with what everyone else is doing, students should be thinking about what they are really being called to do. They might realize that perhaps going to trade school is a good option for them or maybe they want to jump into the hospitality industry. Perhaps they want to start their own creative career and pursue freelance work on their own. They also might realize that they love college and want to pursue academics even beyond just their Bachelor’s degree. Whatever it is that they realize, now is a great time to act on those feelings and really start working for the life that they want.

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