Senior plans change due to college uncertainty

Amelia Bergeron

For many seniors, the end of March is highly anticipated. It is the time when all college decisions are released and students have to choose a school that they want to attend for the next four years. However, this March, the COVID-19 pandemic thrusted all students into online school, closed college campuses, and changed many seniors’ future plans. 

Senior Maren Dunn was originally planning on attending Tufts University in the fall but has now decided instead to take a gap year. “[Tufts is] a private university so it would have cost so much money to attend and I just didn’t feel like it was worth it to pay that much tuition money for online [learning] when I wouldn’t be getting the full college experience,” she said. Before coronavirus, the thought of taking a gap year was something considerable, but ultimately not for her as she was eager to go to college.

Dunn explained that the deferral process was very easy at Tufts and her gap year request was accepted within days. She feels lucky that she was planning on attending a private university because the process to apply for a gap year is simpler than at a public university. Dunn also feels fortunate that they had a spot for her in the class of 2025 and was not forced to reapply anywhere with her unexpected decision. 

She has already started to research potential options for opportunities she could pursue during her gap year. Depending on if borders open up internationally, she is considering working at a surf camp in Costa Rica or a hostel in Belfast, Ireland. She has always wanted to travel and hopes that a year off will give her the opportunity to do so as she has been saving money throughout high school. “I definitely wasn’t planning on spending my money on this, but I am lucky that I have the money saved and can finance my own travel,” she said.

Lillian Alten is another senior who considered a gap year but ultimately decided to stick to her original plan of attending Miami University of Ohio, determining that it would benefit her the most academically. In addition, coronavirus has limited many opportunities she could have pursued with a year off. 

Alten’s excitement for college was another consideration when choosing not to take a gap year. “I just kind of felt like I couldn’t wait any longer necessarily to get to college and start the whole process,” she said. Alten admitted that the decision was challenging because of the immense uncertainty. “It was pretty difficult because nothing is set in stone so you’re kind of just deciding between a whole bunch of unknowns,” she said. 

Alten is unsure if students will be able to return to campus in the fall, but is hopeful. “It’s still kind of unknown but I’ve been hearing more things about probably going back [with] colleges figuring out how because I think…they want people to be on campus.” 

Both Dunn and Alten are happy with their decisions for the coming fall. “So if everything works out, if borders open when they say they are, I’m really excited to have some time off and kind of experience something besides the classroom,” Dunn said. Alten is looking forward to the long-anticipated college experience and independence. With the large amount of uncertainty brought by the virus at the end of their high school careers, at least some level of sureness about their futures brings both graduates a sense of relief and excitement.