The global COVID-19 pandemic has put a burden on many students and has made them unsure on how to proceed with their higher education goals. Some students struggling to start college at a time of uncertainty have found relief through the Bronco Gap Year program.
The program is designed for first-year and current students who are not ready to return to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kelly Myers, interim associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the idea came about as a way to help those students who were hesitant about starting school or returning to campus.
“The idea initially sparked at the end of spring semester,” Myers wrote in an email. “Students visited Admin Council to reflect on their experiences and share what they’re hearing from other students. At that meeting, they said that a lot of students were thinking about a gap year for the fall.”
The program is split up into four pathways: including “changemakers”, “life-changing”, “world-changing” and a build your own option. All pathways are designed to provide learning opportunities, such as professional development, project development, structured experience and reflection support.
The program is available for current and future Boise State students as well.
“We removed as many barriers to participation as possible,” Myers wrote. “For example, people do not have to be enrolled at Boise State to participate in the gap year program.Because they are not enrolled in courses, all credits are through the credit from prior learning process.”
Boise State has a process in place that allows students to get credit for work or experiences outside the Boise State curriculum. The Gap Year program is implementing a version of that system in which students can provide evidence of their work at the end of the program and receive a minimum of three credits and up to a maximum of nine credits.
The program pairs students with a faculty member for ongoing guidance and mentorship, allowing students to get a better understanding of what they would like to eventually study.
Beth Manor, a senior multidisciplinary studies major, believes that the Bronco Gap Year program is a positive project Boise State is launching.
“My gut response is to wish that a version of this program had been available when I first started at Boise State,” Manor said. “The opportunity to be paired with a faculty member for guidance and mentoring could have been a game-changer that might have spared me portions of the college roller coaster.”
Manor thinks something like this could potentially help incoming freshmen when it comes to making decisions about their future and can avoid jumping into the college experience too quickly.
“I believe that the traditional high school [straight] into the college pathway rushes young people into college without enough time to consider what they want from the experience besides social engagement and sports participation,” Manor said.
According to Manor the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us how to be more thoughtful and to take the time to make big decisions in our lives.
“If this pandemic has a silver lining, it might be removing the stigma around handling uncertainty. The Gap Year program tells new students that it’s normal to not have all the answers about what you want to do or who you want to be,” Manor said. “While many people might already realize that, it feels profound to have that truth out in the open.”
Timm Huss is a junior business major who made the decision to take a gap year. He thinks a program like this can be beneficial for students at Boise State and encourages students to pay attention to their mental health.
“As my degree intensifies, a mental health break is much needed,” Huss said. “I’m taking a gap semester due to COVID-19. I say do what is right for you. Mental health and focus are the top priority in my regard and, if a break feels necessary, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you.”
During this time of so much unpredictability, Myers knows it’s important for the Bronco Gap Year to provide options for students and non-students.
“Students are facing so many layers of uncertainty right now. There are financial concerns and constraints, friends and family members are, or could become, sick and there are so many unknowns,” Myers said.
The program will allow students and non-students to make connections at Boise State and make some progress on their degree, all while having the flexibility they need.
“It’s another doorway into the university, a different entry point that not only gives a new kind of flexibility, but also helps them think about what they want to do with their educational experience and beyond,” Myers said.