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College Freshman Take a Gap Year Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

At the end of Reanna Ramasami’s first year at Hunter, she took some time off. Since high school she had a four year plan and was eager to get a start on her career path. That hopefulness soon turned to fear and stress when COVID-19 took over, leaving her with no choice but to start a new course of action. 

The pandemic hit during her second semester and she quickly learned that remote learning was not her best option. “It was really easy to get distracted at home,” said Ramasami who lives with three siblings. 

“Everyone was trying to do school at the same time, none of us could focus around each other,” she said. “It was literally the worst thing to happen.”

To Ramasami, taking time off was the only logical explanation. As the oldest sibling, she felt a sense of duty to help her siblings with their school work. 

Ramasami isn’t alone in this. In 2020 about 40,000 high school seniors took time off beginning their freshman year in college, according to the Gap Year Association. 

“Hunter was my first choice when applying to colleges,” said Marley Sterling who recently graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and deferred her admission to Hunter. “My mom wasn’t too crazy about the idea of me not going straight to college, but she was supportive,” she said. 

Sterling was not sure how to deal with such an experience. “I’ve literally been in school since I was like 3 years old, not being in school feels super weird,” she said. “And to be off of school during a pandemic is even worse. I can’t do all the fun stuff that I probably should be doing before I go back to school.”

Sterling plans to start college by next spring depending on how “everything is looking with this COVID stuff,” she says. “My biggest hope is that I don’t have any problems getting back into school once I’m ready,” she said, stating that the process of applying to colleges was a stressful experience she does not want to relive. 

Hunter colleges incoming freshman class is usually around 2500 students. Sixty-three of those deferred their admissions during the fall 2020 admissions cycle according to research provided by Irina Ostrozhnyuk at Hunter’s Admissions Department.

According to the latest National Student Survey by SimpsonScarborough, close to 40% of freshmen who planned to attend a four-year college say they are unlikely to attend any college this fall. Another 30% of students already registered are less likely to go back to college even if they can.

Going back to campus is now becoming a more concrete option now that CUNY is planning for an in-person fall semester, but Ramasami will not be returning to Hunter. During her time off from school she spent some time in Georgia with family and decided to move there. She will likely enroll in school there when the end of the pandemic is in sight. 

“It’s crazy to me that I’m here,” said Ramasami, describing her new life in Georgia. “In high school all I wanted was to go to Hunter. It was known as a good school and I gave it up.” Ramasami says she does not regret her decision. 

Elina Dumcheva, another Hunter student who took some time off after her first year because of the pandemic, had some trouble coming to a decision. 

“The fact that I’m not going to graduate in exactly four years because of this is really unsettling,” said Dumcheva who has always had “the perfect plan” for her college life. 

“The pandemic was obviously not a part of the plan, and halfway through the remote semester I knew I couldn’t do it,” she said. “I withdrew from all of my classes, lost all of my tuition money and now have a bunch of WU (unofficial withdrawal) grades on my transcript. Not a fun time.” 

She also faced a lot of backlash from her family who believed she should have “stayed on track,” but ultimately knew she did what was best. 

“It’s either all F’s now or all A’s when I’m back in my comfort zone,” said Dumcheva who plans to return to campus for the fall term if all of her classes will be in person, hoping to get back on track with her “perfect, not-so-perfect” plan. 

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