Nearly Half Of Undecided High School Seniors Are Considering A Gap Year

Students at Cornell University

The gap year. If you ever thought about taking one, now could be the time. Nearly half (43%) of graduating high school seniors not already decided on attending college this fall are considering taking a gap year — a break from studies to travel, explore, plan, work, and do who knows what else besides work toward a degree.

These are the findings from a LendEDU survey of 1,000 Americans between 17 and 25 years old, all of whom are either high school seniors graduating in 2020 or current college students graduating in 2021 or later. The survey, which was conducted from June 1-4 and published today (June 9), also found that 41% are considering an online college and 37% are considering community college.

Of the high school students responding, 56% said the coronavirus pandemic had or will have an effect on their final college choice, while 41% said the pandemic had no impact. The most popular change made was deciding to attend “a more affordable college in terms of tuition” that wasn’t their first choice, which 20% said they did. Another 15% of respondents said they picked a college closer to their home even if it wasn’t their original choice. And 10% said they picked the college offering the most funding in scholarships even if it wasn’t their first choice.

“As the coronavirus pandemic simultaneously tightens finances and hinders the ability to travel, many high school seniors have had to sacrifice attending their top choice for college to commit to an institution that was either closer to home or more affordable,” the report says.

LendEDU graph

There is still some hesitation among respondents when it comes to virtual learning, to be sure. If all learning stays online, for example, 30% of respondents said they’d consider not enrolling this fall or deferring for a year. Another 11% said they’d reconsider enrolling if learning does not stay online — meaning that whether or not colleges have in-person classes, at least one-tenth of respondents will consider not enrolling this fall.

The good news for colleges: 43% — the most of any category — said that they plan on attending college this fall no matter what.

LendEDU graphic

For undecided high school students, 41% said they’d consider attending an online college this fall instead of a traditional college because of the coronavirus pandemic. Slightly less — 37% — said they’d consider attending a community college over a traditional college. And the highest percentage (43%) said they’d consider a gap year instead of attending a traditional college this fall.

“For colleges, enrollment is the main driver of revenue and if this series of questions is any indicator, revenue could take a substantial hit come the Fall as more students turn to less traditional options,” the report says.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.