Gap year applications increase during COVID-19 at the University of Iowa

Admissions recorded 26 gap-year request applications in 2020. In 2019, 13 students filled out the gap-year application.


Photo of UI sophomore Maya Heckart. Contributed.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

University of Iowa sophomore Maya Heckart was living in a sorority house with over two dozen other students at the start of the school year. Two weeks into the semester, Heckart said she realized that attending college during a pandemic was not going to work for her, so she moved back home to Jefferson City, Missouri, and decided to take a year off.

“I decided that it just wasn’t realistic for me with classes being online and just not getting the full experience,” Heckart said. “I am not from Iowa, so I was paying out-of-state [tuition] for things and not getting them.”

UI media-relations Director Anne Bassett said the UI received 26 gap-year applications for the fall 2020 semester, from students admitted for the fall 2020 term requesting a delay until fall 2021. Thirteen students submitted a gap-year request form in 2019, and 15 in the previous year.

The UI saw a slightly smaller incoming freshman class, in line with previous efforts to shrink enrollment, but full enrollment numbers will be released ahead of the November meeting of the state Board of Regents, the governing body of Iowa’s public universities.

According to the UI’s gap-year policy, an approved gap-year application allows students to retain first-year admission status for the following year. Financial aid from the UI Office of Student Financial Aid is canceled for that year, however, because it is awarded separately for each academic year.

“Students will be reconsidered for those merit scholarships awarded by the Office of Admissions using the scholarship criteria and dollar amounts being used for the new term of entry,” the policy states. “Scholarship-awarding criteria and dollar amounts are subject to change.”

Heckart said she was not aware that a gap-year application existed. She said she called her UI advisor and was told to drop all her classes and withdraw from the university.

She had scholarships and financial aid when she was a student at the UI, Heckart said, and does not know if she will be able to reapply when she returns.

According to the UI’s Office of Financial Aid policy, semester withdrawals will result in the cancellation of future scholarships, but a student can make an appeal if the reason dropping below full time is because of a move to online classes, serious medical condition, death of family member or friend, assault, or other circumstances.

RELATED: UI Admissions Office’s efforts to attract prospective Hawkeyes move online

Losing her scholarships and financial aid does not make her regret her decision to take a break from college temporarily, Heckart added.

“I told myself that it is going to work out because the decision itself was difficult and so adding another stressor to that wasn’t good for me,” Heckart said. “I am thinking that I am going to have to reapply. I don’t know though. My mind has been elsewhere.”

Right now, Heckart works at a sports bar in Kansas City, Missouri, while living with her sister.

UI junior Tim Globokar, who is majoring in nursing, said he’s taking a gap semester right now because he took enough classes to be ahead of schedule in his major for graduation.

Although it’s difficult to find work because of the pandemic, Globokar said his goal for this semester is to make money that will pay off his college expenses.

“It was very difficult to find work,” he said. “I had a job that was set for this semester, and then I lost the job because of COVID-19. Then I applied for like seven or eight different jobs.”

In a couple of weeks, Globokar plans to work at the Iowa City VA Health Care System as a certified nursing assistant. Globokar said that he has been able to take time for himself this semester and develop close relationships, but will be glad to go back to school for the spring semester.

“I’m kind of excited to have better routines, something a little bit more scheduled, and hopefully, slowly getting back to a little bit more of the pre-COVID-19 world,” he said.

Recent graduate from Clear Creek Amana High School CJ Sherlock said they always had a plan to take a gap year or two before going to college to save up money and travel. Sherlock’s plans changed, however, after the pandemic.

Sherlock now takes care of their great-grandmother and works at a Depot Express gas station in their hometown of Tiffin, Iowa.

“I was planning on going down to Tennessee to see my friend there as well as go to Disney World, but now that has been put on hold,” Sherlock said. “I am saving up to hopefully go next Halloween.”

Although they are not traveling across the country this year, Sherlock said they have learned a lot about their family and how to take care of themself as an adult.

Similar to Sherlock in not having a traditional gap-year experience, Heckart said that, while saving money, she has been planning small things to look forward to, such as visiting her friends in Iowa City.

In the meantime, she said she is hoping that taking time off from school will give her a good idea of what she would like to major in or what she wants for the future.

“I would like to have, I guess, those crazy gap-year experiences and epiphanies,” Heckart said. “I think that I am learning a lot about myself, at least I hope that I am, and can look back on this time and think that this was a decision that I am glad that I made.”