Pandemic changing college plans for some H.S. seniors

Concerns about cost of tuition and return to remote learning among reasons why some are taking a ‘gap year’ after graduation
Taking time off between high school and college due to COVID concerns
Taking time off between high school and college due to COVID concerns(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 10:41 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Maine (WABI) - It’s a common question for high school seniors- what are your plans after graduation?

For the Class of 2021. the pandemic is prompting some to hit pause.

Joy Hollowell explains.


“It’s frustrating because I was playing football all summer, almost every day.”

Gabe Beswick wanted to play football in college. But the senior at Hampden Academy says the pandemic fumbled those plans. Instead, he’s going to work and earn money, come fall.

“There’s a lot of kids in my grade that are not doing anything right after high school,” says Beswick. “They’re just going to wait, take a year off and figure it out after that.”

Taking a gap year, as its called, is something Hampden Academy School Counselor Jill Kenney is seeing more of in the last year or so.

“I think students are definitely weighing their options more carefully than they have in the past, due to the pandemic,” says Kenney. “And also due to the uncertainty of what next year holds for colleges.”

Findings of a new study by Junior Achievement show last year’s seniors were already trending in that direction.

“We partnered with Citizens just to see what has the effects of COVID really done to our high school students,” says Michelle Anderson, President, Junior Achievement of Maine.

The results show 25% of 2020 high school graduates delaying college plans amid financial concerns and uncertainty. And those planning to graduate in the next month or two are struggling with how to pay for a post secondary education.

“We don’t have to push college all the time,” says Anderson. “We tried really hard at Junior Achievement for the last two years to really diversity the volunteer mentors that are going into the classrooms. So students can truly understand the different people and opportunities our state has for employment.”

Kenney says they’re hearing from 2020 graduates who took a gap year, now requesting transcripts be send to schools closer to home.

“The financial aspect is always an issue, it’s always something to consider,” says Kenney. “I think less students are considering going out of state because of that reason. Or maybe even pursuing community college before a four year college.”

When it comes to scholarships, Kenney says many are good for a few years so you don’t have to claim them right away.

“I think it’s also important what students do during that gap year,” she adds. “The gap year is really about enrichment and service related projects in some way to grow as a person.”

Beswick says he’s now considering joining the Guard.


WABI reached out to other high school guidance counselors to discuss seniors taking a gap year.

Lisa Hallen, Director of Guidance at Waterville Senior High School says- “Some students have expressed wanting to have “a break from school” before beginning college, and go straight into the workforce, but for the most part, it seems that most of our college-bound seniors are moving forward with their plans....we usually learn of changes during the summer months.

In addition, since it appears that most colleges are preparing to open in person for fall 2021, I think that has helped with our students’ plans too. Most students are not interested in paying for online education, so the idea of being at college in person has greater appeal.”

Copyright 2021 WABI. All rights reserved.