We are in the final countdown before school starts. In previous years there was excitement and preparation, but many families this year are still in the uncomfortable and unwelcome position of deciding on next year’s plans – to go or not to go back to school. This episode, I take you inside OUR family’s decision-making process with what we are doing with our kids in September – I provide you with some of the questions we asked ourselves in coming to our decision.
While our family's decision revolves around a JK-er's first experience in school, yours likely concerns someone entering into college or university. Both of these stories involve our kids heading onto a new school and defining a new phase of their lives so there are more similarities than you might expect. I will take you through the steps we used to make our family's decision around September 2020 plans with COVID19 lurking around every corner.
Step One: Think about the school experience as a whole. What are you hoping to get out of the time at school?
Forget about COIVD19 for a second. What were the things you were most looking forwards to? What were the things that one year from now you would be glad you had experienced, learned or done?
Step Two: Take some time and look at yourself (or your kid) as a human being. What part of your personality needs to be fed?
We are in the middle of a global pandemic. We have been for half a year. We are more than our grades and our schooling. What do you need in the upcoming year? How does your personality, your mental health, your way of staying connected and learning about the world play into next year's goals?
IMPORTANT: Think about how this year's experience will impact how you approach the rest of your post-secondary experience. Would a negative first attempt negatively impact how you will feel about your entire post-secondary experience? Will you be able to reclaim the post-secondary experience of your dreams in some way in the future?
Step Three (A): · Compare your lists from Step One and Two with the Realities.
Go down your list of what you hope to get out of the year and what you, as a person, need out of this year and see which of those things can be achieved by going back to school. See if that list feels good. If not, take a look at the list again – this time look at it through the lens of delaying your studies by one year. Which of the elements are now possible? Which elements become impossible this year but can be regained next year? Like frosh week or residence? If you chose the gap year model? How does that feel?
Step Three (B): What risk factors change?
If you have to re-imagine next year, what additional risk factors come up? What plans/concessions will you have to make? How will this impact your family, your finances, your relationships, your short term plans? Is there anything in this list that is impossible to reconcile?
Step Four: Understand what is Possible by Making Plans
Having a blank slate in front of you is daunting, and could lead to regret for time wasted rather than making a meaningful year come together with your newfound pandemic opportunities. The planning part of your year is so important. You need to have some ideas of what you are going to get up to on that year. Knowing what is coming is exciting and comforting.
Its also important to plan so you don’t miss out on anything – knowing what your options are means that you won’t look back with regret. We don’t want you to miss out on our gap year frosh week – but if you’re not looking for things to do now, you might miss it.
We all need to move past being the victim of a global pandemic. COVID has shown that it is not going away anytime soon so we need to reclaim our power over it and move forward – either by getting on with our studies or choosing to do it differently.
I know that planning forward is challenging, and can feel overwhelming. Especially if you are doing something for the first time, like planning your life in a pandemic. I want to help families on this journey so I put my experience from 10 years of working with families on gap years into an online toolkit that families can work through at their own pace. It will take about 20 hours total if you put in the work, have the conversations and do the research.
You get access to:
Weekly Office Hours with a Gap Year Expert
You will save yourself lots of stress, time and even money.