In my GroupMe chat with my friends who also just graduated and plan to attend grad school, someone brought up an issue that got me thinking: what are students to do in these trying times? What if you're at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, and you don't want to risk going to a new environment with a bunch of students? What if you're on the fence? How can you make a decision on what to do?
The first and most obvious option for incoming grad students to to go with the flow and start grad school as expected. This may be easier for some than others, as some universities may offer online classes, while others may not. If your school is offering classes in this format, you can definitely continue as planned! However, if your school is only partially online or somehow not at all (which I imagine won't be happening at all), there can be some more anxiety involved. If your school goes back in-person, this decision may be much more tricky, especially if you're becoming a Graduate Teaching Assistant for undergraduates. In this case, I would recommend going with your gut instinct; you may be able to defer your enrollment and keep any financial perks you were offered, though you also may not. This option can be a 50/50.
The second choice that my friends and I discussed was deferring enrollment for another year, therefore giving yourself a gap year. The negatives immediately rang in my ear as this option was brought up. One friend mentioned that with the gap year, she could expand her CV and writing/literary experience via working on her poems and starting to get together a poetry chapbook, however, she suggested that she may lose the funding she was given to attend school in the first place. This dilemma can make the decision really difficult. A gap year may ease some nerves and may make attending school the next year safer, but it may literally cost you, as you may not be able to roll over any offered funding. In this case, you have to determine how a gap year would benefit or hurt you, weight the possible outcomes, etc.
This possibility didn't come up among my friends and I, but I fear that it may be a grim reality for some students: having to drop out of attending graduate school. This may be a result of students not being 100% okay with going back to in-person schooling so soon and losing any funding or monetary means to do so. This option should be a last and unwelcome resort, but if it's the best option for you (and you know it will be), then take this route; do what you need to to stay safe and well-off.
For incoming graduate students, deciding how to go about grad school can be a difficult decision to make; however, use these three options to guide your thinking: what are the pros and cons for each route? What will the outcomes be? Will I be okay (financially and mentally) if I make this decision? And don't forget that most of the time, your gut is always right.
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