BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Interest in gap year programs for high school graduates has skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic. The Gap Year Association says it sees as much as 200% more traffic on its website. Champlain College recently created a 15-week-long Virtual Gap Program they say offers the attractiveness of a gap year and the comfort of a career-driven path.
Julia Rogers of Enroute Consulting has been serving as a gap year coach for almost 12 years. She says it makes sense why the benefits of a program like Champlain College's could seem especially appealing right now.
"We see students being more confident, having interpersonal skills, having just more knowledge about themselves after a gap year. And then we also see students performing better academically and graduating sooner than traditional students after their gap time. So, there's a lot of benefits to consider," said Rogers.
But Rogers says she understands why for some, the desire to get on a campus could outweigh the attraction of a gap year.
"As COVID kind of got bigger and bigger, I was realizing that the reality of going to college this fall might be online. As it was getting closer to the spring, I was thinking, 'Wow, maybe a gap year would be a right choice,'" said Harriet Veltkamp, a soon-to-be Lake Champlain Waldorf School graduate.
Veltkamp started considering the benefits of a gap year -- exploration, internship opportunities and interpersonal experiences. After lots of thought, she concluded she was ready to go to college and committed to attend American University in Washington D.C. in the fall.
"Emotionally I'm definitely ready to be in the class this year," she said.
But uncertainty surrounding school fall semesters made that decision especially difficult. Recently, Champlain College created a program for students in a similar boat. Incoming president Benjamin Ola Akande says leaders quickly launched the Virtual Gap Program in response to what's going on in the world.
"The deep level of research coupled with a sense of urgency -- being able to put it all together and to be able to deliver it and make it available in real time," said Ola Akande.
A three-credit curriculum costs $5,000 and a six-credit is $6,800. One is a big idea series where students learn from international speakers.
"You will be interacting with people all the time from across our campus and across the world," said Lisa Bunders, the vice president for enrollment at Champlain College.
Another is a virtual internship where students engage in career-driven opportunities.
"They'll come out of this with something they can put on their LinkedIn, something they can talk about to a future college that they're going to apply to or a future employer," said Emily Crist, the library director at Champlain College.
"There are ways of coordinating gap year opportunities for just about any COVID situation," said Rogers.
College leaders say there isn't a slot limit yet as they gauge interest, though they aim to make the experience as intimate as possible.