Giving Compass' Take:

• Jeffrey R. Young, writing for EdSurge, discusses the rush of interest to participate in a gap year from prospective college students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

• Deferring admission for a year is now an attractive idea to young people. What does this mean for higher ed institutions? 

• Read more about higher education philanthropy and COVID-19. 

The idea of taking a gap year between high school and college has been growing in recent years, but it has always been a niche thing. About 40,000 students did some kind of gap year last year, according to the Gap Year Association. But that’s out of more than 2 million first-time college students starting as freshmen in the U.S. each year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a rush of interest in the gap year, since most campuses have not yet decided whether they will be open for traditional classes in the fall, and many college have already decided they’ll at least start with online teaching and shuttered campuses.

For many students, deferring admission for a year is suddenly attractive.

The Gap Year Association, for instance, has seen a huge spike in people looking into the idea. One day this week, its website traffic was up 150 percent compared to the same day the previous year, says Ethan Knight, the group’s executive director.

But it’s worth noting that what students will be looking for in a COVID gap year might be different than what people wanted from gap years in the past.

Experts say that gap years have typically been done by students who don’t yet know what they want to major in, and who hope that a mix of service projects and international travel will help them figure that out.

Today, what seems to be driving much of the new interest in gap years is simply buying time until campuses reopen, and an aversion to paying the full price of a residential college when the residential portions will be unavailable, limited or delayed. And going abroad may remain difficult with various travel restrictions and rules in place, Knight added.

Read the full article about the COVID-19 gap year by Jeffrey R. Young at EdSurge.