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Why it’s Okay if You’re Second-Guessing Your College Plans Because of the Pandemic

Are you second-guessing whether post-secondary education is right for you in light of the current educational climate? That’s okay; you’re not alone. The pandemic is difficult, and it affects each of us in different ways. Plus, college itself is something that’s not for everyone. Some people thrive under the pressure, some have more time to do work than before the pandemic and others struggle to stay motivated and get their work done. So if you’re one of the many debating whether or not going to college is the right choice for you right now, here are six things to remember.

It’s okay to feel this way

It might feel like you’re the odd one out, but just know you aren’t. Maybe no one else in your town is making this decision, but who cares? Plenty of people are second-guessing the plans they’ve been making for years due to the pandemic, and you’re doing what’s best for you. At the end of the day, that’s what’s most important. Don’t let the crowd’s choices dictate yours. Your feelings are always valid, and if you feel like you want to take a gap-year or college isn’t for you, don’t let the opinions of others change you.

You can be successful without college

There are plenty of successful and influential people out there, like Steve Jobs, Anna Wintour, and Ted Turner, who never got a college degree, and look at them now! Steve Jobs created Apple with only one semester of college under his belt. The iconic Anna Wintour, editor and chief of Vogue, never even attended in the first place. Ted Turner launched the first 24-hour cable news network after he was kicked out of college. They’re proof that you can be successful without a degree. 

It’s important to define what success means to you. Does it mean owning a multimillion-dollar company? Does it mean being happy? Does it mean feeling love, or giving love to others? Does it mean making a positive impact on this planet? I know this is super heavy, but take some time to journal about this. Learn what success means to you, and then take action towards that. 

For me, at this time, success just means being happy with my life. This isn’t easy right now, but I’m trying to do things that bring me joy. Writing is one of those things, and to be a journalist I know I need to get an education. While I loved college pre-pandemic, I don’t love it as much now. However, I know that my end goal will be worth the unpredictable journey. That’s my version of success because that's what brings me joy. My definition of success might be different from yours and that’s okay! 

Do what makes you happy

I think this is my new catchphrase. When my friends ask me any question, I tell them, “Do what brings you the most joy.” When I’m trying to justify a purchase, I decide how much joy it’ll bring me. When I make meals, I choose what makes me happy. Clay Roads, who took a gap year after graduating high school in 2020, feels the same. “My advice to current high school seniors is to do what makes you the happiest in the long run,” he says. “There’s no need to rush into college if college means sitting on more zoom calls and dreading class.” 

In times like these, it’s important to realize the little things that bring us joy and do more of that. If going to college at this time doesn't make you happy, then don’t do it. If you know there’s something else out there that will bring you more joy, focus on that. 

Education will always be there

Do you want to take a year off to volunteer at the hospital or save money? Gap years have always been a possibility, and now more than ever it makes sense to take advantage of them. Like 2020, 2021, unfortunately, isn’t going to be a normal year either. So why treat it like one and do the “normal” thing? You can always come back and get a degree if you want to in a few years when you can sit in a classroom and learn in person. College will always be there, but the pandemic won’t. If you feel more comfortable waiting so you get a more traditional college experience, do it! 

There are options out there for you

Just because you’re not taking classes doesn't mean you can’t be productive with your year. Mia Ciluffo was supposed to go to the College of Charleston but decided last minute to work on a farm in Hawaii instead. She’s taking the year off and working with the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization (WWOOF).  WWOOFing is a program that connects volunteers with organic farms and gives you the freedom to learn and travel while saving money. 

“You can do this program anywhere,” she says. “The exchange is, you work six hours a day for free room and board and food.” She explains that she decided not to go to school at the last minute, “but everything happens for a reason.” 
Of course, you don’t have to work on a farm in Hawaii. You could work in your hometown and spend time with your family. You could save money, and you could learn in other ways. There are so many possibilities, and college is not the only option.

Yes, it can be scary living on campus right now

As a current college student, I can say I’ve had many COVID scares. There’ve been multiple times my roommates or I have had to get tested because someone we were exposed to test positive. Each one of those situations was stressful, and it’s far from the traditional experience. 

If that’s what you’re after, I get it. I wish I wasn’t going to school in the middle of a pandemic. I feel like I’m missing out on so many opportunities and memories that I’d be getting and making if this were a normal year. My situation didn’t allow for a gap year, but I’m jealous of everyone who does. 

Clay says, “You only get four years of college and I didn’t want to waste my freshman year not getting any of the normal college experiences.” He explains how his gap year has given him an extra year to grow into adulthood, and prepare for college. There’s no need to add extra stress to your life. If staying home and not living in close quarters with others makes you feel safer and happier, do it! 

I know this time is difficult, so be easy on yourself. Allow yourself the time and space to do what makes you happy and confident. And remember that everyone’s timeline looks different. We are all on a different journey and life takes us all in different directions. You are on the right path because everything happens for a reason.

Grace is a Senior Media Art and Design major at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She has lived in Virginia her whole life, but plans on moving to New York City after graduation. Gracie loves to travel and plans on being a travel writer post-grad. Her favorite places to visit were either Munich, Germany, or Cusco, Peru. Besides Her Campus, Gracie is in Gamma Phi Beta, works as the Creative Coordinator for Bluestone Communications JMU, and writes for the culture section of The Breeze, JMU's newspaper.
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