7 Tips for Planning a Gap Year During COVID-19

Every day we ask ourselves how we can be of best use to the experiential and international community, and to you – the families whose ideas of either gap year or college have been turned upside down.

Our approach has been, from the start, a forward-facing one that focuses on transparency, productivity, community and communication as we all head – together – into the coming weeks and months of COVID-19.

Given our relationships across both traditional and experiential education, we are in a unique position to share with you what we are learning from some of the key players across the field, with the hope that it helps you have a better sense of the current gap year landscape.

1.) Health & Travel: For the most reliable and current medical and travel advice in the US and around the world, these websites will be ongoing resources as you consider both timelines and destinations for travel. Bookmark them, and refer to them weekly: Center for Disease Control (CDC)World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Department of State.

2.) Travel Insurance: If travel is part of your gap year, be sure to research your travel insurance options. Pandemics are not included in international travel insurance policies. However as you research your options make sure to inquire about trip interruption and cancelation, as well as medical evacuation insurance. Here are some well-regarded companies for student travel: Travel GuardinextTravel InsuranceInternational InsuranceGeoBlueInternational SOS, and International Student Insurance (ISO).

3.) Gap Year Programs: Student and staff safety is every program’s top priority. Currently, gap year programs are hoping to run their programs in the fall, but they will not hesitate to adapt or cancel those programs when and if that is required. We have talked to dozens of gap year program providers in the past few weeks and they want to hear from you, so now is the time to pick up the phone and call them with your questions. Ask about their COVID-19 response plan. Inquire about potential programmatic changes. Clarify application and refund policies (which have all been extended already.) You will not find a more empathetic or knowledgeable group of people.

4.) College Plans: Are you planning to go to college in the fall? Are you wondering if your fall semester will now be online? Colleges are working as diligently as they can to make sound decisions for this current semester, as well as for the fall, without a blueprint. Like gap year programs, colleges want to hear your questions and concerns, so do not hesitate to call. Most have extended acceptance deadlines to May 1st and June 1st. Many are focused on developing quality online learning programs. Meanwhile, you can go on virtual campus tours, and contact current students and alumni from your admitted schools. If being on a campus is fundamental to your college experience and that may not be an option this fall, consider other options such as: longtime online schools, community college, or a gap year. Need tips on How to Write a College Deferral Letter?

5.) #whatisyourwhy: Be it a gap year or college, this is the question every high school senior should be coming back to right now: “Why do I want to take a gap year” or “Why do I want to go to college”? Being able to answer your WHY is the foundational starting point for all that’s ahead. Like any good wayfinder, you need to know where you want to be and why you want to be there before you can plot the route of how you are going to get there. If your gap year vision is based on international travel, you may not be satisfied by learning a language online. Likewise, if your dream of going to college is focused on campus life, studying online may not be ok for you. Knowing your why highlights what matters most to you right now, and thus helps you craft a new set of plans and strategies based on current or predicted circumstances. Being able to clearly and confidently explain your why will also mean a lot to those who matter most: family, guidance counselor and ultimately college, if you plan to defer your acceptance.

6.) Articles & Interviews: We know you are likely saturated with news, social media memes, on-line groups and more, all while trying to manage school work, a job, routine, health and balance. Still, we wanted to be sure to share some of the most compelling pieces we have read, watched and heard about gap year and higher education in the last week:

7.) Webinar Wednesday: Every Wednesday we – Jane and Jason – log-on live for a free 30-minute webinar designed for anyone and everyone with questions about taking a gap year: high school and college students, parents, counselors and educational consultants. Since COVID-19 we have pivoted to share updates about shifts in higher education, what gap year programs are currently planning, health and safety resources, as well as our own strategies related to gap years and COVID-19. Webinar Wednesdays are always free and open to all.

Take a look at our new COVID-19 Resources page which has our most current workshops, offerings and press. If you can’t find what you need there, please email (info@j2guides.com) or call (413-570-4878) us.

In hope and health,

Jane & Jason

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