OPINION: Freshmen have to make a choice this semester

Working and taking a gap year come with pros and cons; students must decide

The+pandemic+has+forced+many+college+students+to+reconsider+their+options%2C+like+whether+or+not+to+take+a+gap+year.+

LAUREN PETTIT

The pandemic has forced many college students to reconsider their options, like whether or not to take a gap year.

ADAM HUREAU, Evergreen columnist

There is no question that this fall is going to look different. Classes, football games and even parties will all have changed. This might leave freshman uncertain as to whether or not they should come to college.

For some, postponing college could be an extremely viable option, maybe even the best option. On the other hand, some freshman might not want to delay their studies and come to campus to try and get what they can of the Coug experience. Every student is different, but there is still value in taking part in the college experience this fall.

Let’s look at why students might not want to come. As WSU’s administrators have mentioned already, the university will be implementing a “Hyflex” model this coming semester, comprised of both in-person and online classes. Classes with 50 or more students will be online while the delivery method for classes under 50 students will be up to the professor’s discretion.

Because of this, many students might find themselves with a majority of online classes, even if their classes are smaller. Freshman might see this as a waste of time and money. It’s definitely not what we all expect from college, so for some (especially some more hands-on majors), it really might be best to wait it out.

But is taking a gap year worth it right now?

Phil Weiler, WSU’s vice president for marketing and communications, said that many students take a gap year to travel or work. However, because of COVID, these options are not feasible.

“We’re not able to travel freely, domestically or certainly internationally, so travel isn’t a reason why you’d want to take a gap year,” Weiler said. “As far as working is concerned, we’re facing some historic, high levels of unemployment and the likelihood of getting a good-paying job for the next year is probably not very good.”

Weiler also said that freshmen should take as much advantage of the opportunities they do have this year so they can start to figure out their academic interests rather than stay at home with nothing to do.

“I just don’t think there are great alternatives to not going to school, whether it’s at WSU or anywhere else,” he said. “There’s so much advantage to being in a college experience, in my mind it would be a shame to miss out on that for a year.”

It’s also important to remember that campus likely won’t be shut down completely this fall, meaning that places like the Chinook or the CUB would still be available for students and paying for them wouldn’t be a waste of tuition dollars.

On the non-academic side, WSU is still implementing ways in which students can have the traditional college experience, despite the presence of COVID. Jill Creighton, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said that the university will ensure freshmen can stay engaged despite logistic challenges this fall.

“We are working so hard to ensure that we can offer a version of the college experience, whether that be helping students find ways to engage with campus activities, clubs or organizations, recreation, leadership activities, you name it,” Creighton said. “We have our entire division of student affairs working tirelessly to ensure that our students can remain engaged while they’re here.”

COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in the Coug experience. The fall is definitely going to be different and probably strange for many of us who are used to the bustle of college life and a packed Martin Stadium. Freshmen have hard decisions to make, and ultimately students should do what is best for them, but I think coming to school is still a great option.

Creighton said that whatever happens, there are still benefits for freshmen this fall.

“This generation of first-year students will certainly have their own unique experience and their own unique stories at the end of the year,” she said. “But they will still have opportunities to build bridges together, to make friends, to learn together, to have a shared experience, and when our students choose to come here in the fall, we are committed to providing them an experience that is well-rounded.”