Gap Years and COVID Fears: A Look into Chamblee Graduates’ Gap Year Plans


Photo courtesy of Kieran Ferguson

Kieran Ferguson with his outreach group, featuring Chamblee seniors Carson Ankeny and Matthew Lombardo

Henry Diep, Staff Writer

As another school year rolls around, the graduating class from last year embarks on a new journey outside of high school. For most, that journey involves pursuing a post-secondary education at a college or university right after high school, but every year a small minority of Chamblee graduates start their journey with a gap year in which they take a year-long break from education before going into college.

For every student, the decision-making process and reasoning for taking a gap year is different. However, colleges have seen an increase in the amount of students taking a gap year in 2020 particularly due to the current unprecedented COVID-19 situation and how it would force colleges to limit in-person learning.

“[The reason I took a gap year was] pretty much [because of] COVID and how it would force me to take online classes which I deeply despise,” said class of 2020 graduate Nick Murphy. “[I’m] not so much worried about being affected by the actual virus.”

Kieran Ferguson, who also graduated from Chamblee last year, did not make the decision to take a gap year with the coronavirus in mind but shares the same sentiment.

“When I made the decision, I thought that we would’ve dealt with COVID by now,” he said. “In hindsight, a gap year ended up being a really good decision. Online school is just school without the fun parts — not to mention the recklessness of some kids at college campuses [that aren’t going virtual].”

Many students who take a gap year view it as a time to focus on and enjoy themselves right after graduating before having to head back to a school environment, or simply feel that they are not quite ready to go on to college yet.

“Graduating from high school is a big milestone because that’s when people begin to see you as an adult. I didn’t feel mature enough at the time, so I decided that a gap year was a great opportunity to work on myself. It’s also an opportunity for me to travel in a way I won’t be able to after college because I don’t have any student debt,” said Ferguson.

During a gap year, many students may take the opportunity away from school to take on programs or activities like working full-time, interning, and traveling. It also allows them to expand their horizons and do things they might not be able to do while attending school full-time.

“During my gap year, I’ve been working and exploring hobbies and personal interests,” said Murphy. “[I] got a job at a t-shirt printing job that’s pretty cool [and I’m] also enjoying traveling around in my new car I bought.”

Meanwhile, with an important election coming up this year, Ferguson is taking initiative during his gap year and working with local politicians and their online campaigns to potentially get more willing voters in the presidential election.

“Currently, I’m running a Gen Z outreach group with Chamblee seniors Carson Ankeny and Matthew Lombardo,” he said. “We’re providing dirt-cheap digital services and training to state and local-level campaigns. The stakes are incredibly high this election, so I’m hoping that with excitement for down-the-ballot candidates, we can expand the electorate and help those further up the ballot.”

However, COVID-19 has caused some opportunities to be unavailable and potentially forced students across the country to adjust their gap year plans.

“I plan [to] travel after Election Day [but] because COVID is so rampant here, it has become harder to travel. Other countries are banning travel from U.S. citizens because they don’t want us to start outbreaks. The scope of what I can do depends on how leadership deals with COVID-19,” said Ferguson.

For current seniors who are also considering taking a gap year after high school, colleges often allow students to defer acceptance for a year so that the student will have a guaranteed spot after their gap year and won’t have to reapply.

“I was accepted at GCSU [Georgia College & State University] and [they] let me hold my place there to take a gap year. Administration was very welcoming of my choice,” said Murphy.

While taking a gap year might not be the conventional route out of high school that many students will consider taking, it is an alternative option that many students end up feeling satisfied with.

“I’m looking forward to living on my own and working to make some dough,” Murphy said. “Kinda sucks that most [of] my friends are away in college, but I’m enjoying making new friends and other connections.”