In July 2020, Yale announced its plan to bring first years to campus for only a few months due to the pandemic. The University also announced that during those few months, most of campus life would be virtual: no in-person classes, no open libraries or cafeterias, no club meetings, no a cappella and no to so many of the reasons I wanted to come to Yale. Despite feeling ready to begin college, following this announcement, I became one of around 300 former 2024s who chose to take a gap year.
Whether gappers were isolated at home with their parents, had a COVID-safe program experience, lived in a pod with friends or, like me, some combination of these, no one’s social life was exactly normal this past year. We were then plunged from our pods into the largest class in Yale College history. Scarcity of alone time and constant socialization, I’ve been told, are normal phenomena of first year life. But, for the COVID-19 gap year student, the added level of adjustment after 18 months makes the experience that much more intense.
And while it’s great that I can now say that I — a formerly stressed, stay-up-until-3- a.m.-doing-homework student — made it through a year without academic validation (and I was even happy!), the transition back to academic feedback (which at Yale is not always as validating as it was in high school) has definitely been an adjustment.