Enrollment requires important decisions for every student–which courses to pursue, how to shape your schedule, and how many credits per term is right for you. As students, we have to be particularly thoughtful about enrollment this upcoming school year. COVID-19 has swept the world, and Oregon, in turn, causing changes to our academic environment, workplace opportunities, and perhaps even family situations. Amidst these trying circumstances, there are still a variety of reasons as to why fall 2020 enrollment can be the right course for many students, myself included. Here are just five of these reasons.
1. Any long period a student spends away from their academic routine tends to weaken their momentum, and the longer this gap is, the harder it becomes to return to an academic schedule and lifestyle. After only summer break, I personally have trouble readjusting to the college setting once I’ve returned; therefore, I imagine we’re less likely to return the longer we wait, causing some students to never re-enroll at all, leaving them with credits in progress but no degree.
2. The economy and the world at large is constantly changing and evolving–that includes our prospective career fields. After taking an extra year off, there is potential for the job market to shift. Although there may be new prospects that have arisen, quite a few could also become unavailable–different prospects translates to altered personal plans. A study by SimpsonScarborough, covered by USA Today, found that entering the workforce with a bachelor’s degree is much more vital in our post-COVID world, as the new jobless rate for high school graduates is at 12.1%, while the rate for college graduates sits at 6.9%. This gap has significantly widened in comparison to last year, when the rates were 3.9% and 2.1% respectively. They also found that delaying college by a year could result in a potential loss of $90,000 in lifetime earnings
3. Of course, no college student can avoid the pressing topic of financials. Once a student has dropped below half-time enrollment, they must begin to pay back their federal loans. Continuing your schooling journey can delay that aspect longer. Additionally, the earlier you graduate, the sooner you can start on your degree-related career, which provides a good chance of bigger paychecks.
4. In relation to loans, scholarship opportunities are vital to consider. If you have been awarded scholarships for the upcoming term, you may lose those opportunities if you’re temporarily dropping out–that’s money lost. In addition, due to schools’ and donors’ long-term funding shortfalls, the same scholarships and practicums that you’ve been aiming for simply may not exist in another year.
5. Finally, college is a very social and community-based experience, and after a year’s delay in your education path, you will likely end up in a new graduating class. Now that I have completed my general education and moved on to major and minor-specific courses, I spend a lot of time with the same classmates. I’ve gained friends through my major program, and many of us are on track to graduate together. Leaving for a year, personally, would mean I’d lose part of that community on campus. Although this may not be the largest factor to consider when contemplating a gap year, not being able to graduate alongside friends and valued classmates can be disappointing and isolating.
There is so much to keep in mind in regards to a potential gap year, many of those reasons unique to you and your journey. It’s simply best to stay informed and know what’s right for you. No matter what, WOU’s faculty and staff are here to support you in your educational path, regardless of what shape that takes.