To the incoming college freshmen, take the gap year. You deserve to be able to find your place and your pack, battle homesickness, make your first college friend, and get your first good grade under normal circumstances. Take the gap year.
College is about growth, change, development. It's about finding yourself. How are you supposed to become this evolved and matured person if you never leave your house? Take the gap year.
In a normal world, the beginning of college is crazy. Everyone is confused, trying to start fresh, and trying to find the people that will tackle this new world with them. Universities host tons of events to introduce students to the many different aspects and opportunities on campus. Not only does this help students find their place, or at least start testing the waters, but students inevitably meet lots of new and friendly faces. This friend-making process will be anything but effective when moved to be remote.
Freshmen are desperate for friends, so they look for and find them everywhere. And no, not all of them last. But some of them might just be forever. How are you supposed to make friends that will change your life, that will make you want to keep going when the weight of the work doesn't seem worth the degree, that make this new home feel like home?
You can't just run into some sweet girl in the hall, invite her in, and become friends for life. You can't talk to the boy next to you in class because no one's next to you in class. You'll just be staring at a hundred strange faces on Zoom. You can't go to your first day of practice or your first meeting and meet all the people on campus who love that thing that you do. Take the gap year.
One of my personal favorite things about college and dorm life is living with all your friends. I never thought I'd have friends that knock on each other's doors at ungodly hours of the night and stay up super late, even when they have an 8:30 lecture the next day, to just enjoy each other's company and laugh.
When we were sent home back in March, that was what I was most upset about: leaving the dorm where my closest friends were always mere feet away, the friends that I could have crazy Disney singalongs with or do nothing with, the friends that are worth ruining my sleep schedule for. How are you supposed to make those friends from sitting behind a screen in your room? Take the gap year.
I know that there are other factors. I know that I can't speak for everyone and that we all see the world differently and have different goals. I know we do not know what the future holds. I know that the decisions schools are making are for the benefit of everyone. But if it was me, especially knowing what I know having gone through the majority of that freshman year experience, I would take the gap year. I would take community college classes to get some gen-eds out of the way and work.
Make and save money while you really don't have much else to do. And when the world is hopefully more normal next year, go to college and live the way you want to. Because I hope that if there is anything you've learned from all the madness of these past few months, it's that we should all just live a little bit more.