May 21, 2020

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Health Resources & Effects on the Gap Year

(This post contains sections on Safety, 3 Response Scenarios, & Articles)

Interim's primary concern is the safety of our students. Given the current situation with COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus), we are monitoring the most informed news about it so that we can share the best information with our families.

The following resources provide reliable and timely sources of information:
The Center for Disease Control
The United States Department of State
The World Health Organization for International Travel and Health
The National Association of International Educators
The EPA released a list of Sanitizers for Use

For updated travel restrictions by country:
IATA - International Air Transport Association and US Dept of State

3 Scenarios in Response to COVID-19 Potential Restrictions:
We understand that families are feeling concerned about COVID-19 and its potential long-term effects on the coming gap year. It is difficult to know for certain what the landscape will be like by fall, so we have outlined three possible scenarios and how it is possible to respond effectively given the range of available options:

  1. The most challenging scenario is that travel restrictions remain in place and all students planning on college in the fall have to engage in online courses, a continuation of what most current high school seniors are doing this spring. In contrast, the online options that gap year students can consider are far more varied and tailored to specific interests (courses of all kinds, internships, volunteer work, art tours, fitness, etc.) And these online options can allow students to buy time for a month or longer rather than having to commit to a full college semester of online courses. For example, shorter program options could be woven into Oct, Nov, or Dec, as soon as travel restrictions lift. We continue to add to our extensive ORL - Online Resource List (over 80 links to date) that we have been compiling since early March, and these resources can be utilized now through the fall as needed.
  2. The next scenario is that we can all move around more freely by fall but international travel might still feel too risky. US based options would then be the focus and these also offer a good way to buy time before planning potential Jan-May 2021 international experiences. Given the many years we have been researching placements for students, we have compiled another extensive list of US based options (50+) for 2020-2021. These possibilities range from group gap year semester programs to shorter skill-based intensives, volunteer placements, and some internship options (more challenging to find in the US for gap year students). Several group program providers are also creating more domestic programs to run this fall in response to the uncertainty around international travel and this allows for students to engage with peers as a start to their gap year. Some group program providers are setting up later fall start dates (Oct versus Sept) and running 8 weeks over 12. There are quite a few options in the US with sufficient variety for students to be able to pinpoint enough that appeal.
  3. The ideal scenario is that we all return to a semblance of normalcy by summer or fall and can continue with existing plans.

One great gap year benefit, especially this year, is how much flexibility is involved with swift and easy changes in plans as needed. Program variety allows students to still engage in interesting experiences as they wait to see how the world landscape unfolds, and with increased freedom of movement, they can turn on a dime to step into options further afield. Gap year learning is all about rolling with change and the challenge of becoming comfortable with shifting plans, whether due to internal or external factors. Our current situation with this virus definitely poses one of the more challenging external pressures for change, but we do believe it is possible to successfully carry on nonetheless with the above array of potential adjustments and options.

Recent Articles:
The following articles address how students and parents are feeling about college this fall, how colleges may weather the potential challenges of continued online classes and reduced enrollment, and when they make a final decision about online or on campus classes, and also some positive effects of quarantine on students.

Chronicle of Higher Education (5/19/20) - see updated list of college decisions about fall classes:

Bloomberg Businessweek (5/15/20) - Holly Bull, Gap Year Counselor at Interim, quoted in this article on the economic implications for this year's gap year:

PBS News Hour - Education (5/5/20) - students continuing to contemplate a gap year this fall

LA Times (4/30/20) - colleges considering viable on campus life

Forbes (4/28/20) - suggestions on how to make the most of a gap year

Forbes (4/26/20) - It's Time to Reinvent the Gap Year

ABCNews (4/24/20) - More students are now considering a Gap Year because of COVID-19

CNBC (4/16/20):

NYTimes (4/15/20):

Diverse: Issues In Higher Ed (4/12/20):

Chronicle of Higher Education (4/8/20)

Forbes Magazine (4/3/20):

New York Post (3/29/20) - the potential upside for students with a notable decrease in anxiety and chance to develop useful executive functioning skills:

Stay healthy and well,

Holly Bull & Kate Warren
Center for Interim Program Gap Year Counselors 

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