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There's a big elephant in the room for high school seniors and college students that people aren't talking enough about:

Is there a realistic scenario in which the next academic year (2020-21) looks like business as usual?

A tweet rant. 1/n

My advice to high school seniors: Take a gap year.

My advice to current college students: Take a leave of absence, at least for the fall, preferably for the whole year.

Fine print:

As a university professor, parent of a high school senior & college junior, & someone who spends most days tracking & analyzing #COVID19, I have been mulling over *every* possible scenario for how higher ed re-opens for business in Fall 2020.

Literally zero of those scenarios is this one:

School re-opens in the fall, students return to dorms & dining halls, professors teach in-person classes, and then it's winter break.


Arguments I hear against gap year/LOA:

1. "But what if it's a regular school year after all and I've missed out?"

Response: Very small probability that it's regular, and college will still be there when you go back (minus some beloved people from your cohort, yes).

2. "But what would I possibly do during the gap year/leave of absence, especially if the economy is in shambles and I can't travel?"

Response: Volunteer as a COVID-19 contact tracer for your local health department, learn a language or an instrument, earn money as...

6/n online research subject or graphic designer or video editor or test prep tutor, live with & help out a grandparent, foster a pet, work for a campaign, apprentice as a car mechanic or baker, do literally *anything* besides spend a lot of tuition dollars on Zoom U.

3. "But I already feel like I've been in a holding pattern since quarantine started, how could I possibly make it through another year of this?"

Response: I hear you. It's a drag. But, less of a drag than starting school in Aug and coming home in Oct for (more) Zoom U?

4. "But what if I get behind?"

Response: Behind...what? I really don't understand this one.

So, am I walking the talk at home?

My high school senior had already been planning a gap year before COVID19 so I didn't have to do any convincing on that front. Had she not been considering a gap year, I would have pushed it hard.

Would I have required it by withholding tuition? I might have.

I did encourage her to make her college decision with due haste, plunk down her deposit, and get the gap year deferral request submitted ASAP as I think they will be a scarce commodity at some schools given uncertainty.

My college junior & I are having tough conversations about the tradeoffs involved in committing to a leave of absence *now* vs. waiting to see what her university's contingency plans & scenarios look like. Also discussing possible logistics and finances of a year off.

I am very transparent about advocating for a leave of absence as the wise & prudent plan. Also would prefer not to pay for any more Zoom U, all props & ultimate respect to the valiant faculty making it happen.

Will I refuse to pay for next year? Probably not.

That's the rant. I remain open to updating my view as this astonishingly dynamic situation unfolds.

I recognize the many places of privilege from which I speak. Also want to note my extreme risk aversion. Gap year/LOA seems like an attractive, well-priced insurance policy. fin
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