Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Bil Leipold, Ed.D.

Second Supervisor

Janice Kelly, Ed.D.


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the extent that the COVID-19 pandemic had on first-year college enrollments for the fall 2020 semester and the alternate plans that were made by Northeastern United States students. The general research question was, “What motivating factors contributed to recent high-school students’ decisions to take a gap year during the COVID-19 global pandemic?” To build an answer, this study was conducted to identify and explore the perceptions of 10 young adults who were accepted and committed to a 4-year college or university after high-school graduation, but they did not accomplish enrollment for the fall 2020 semester, and they took a gap year from schooling during this time. The results of this study found that 4-year institutions were inconsistent in their communication with first-year college students for the fall 2020 semester. No change in cost and fear of missing out (FOMO) dissonance were major factors that influenced nonenrollments. As a result, confidence in decision-making on post-secondary plans flourished among young adults, aged 18–22. The recommendations for stakeholders and institutions, including colleges, universities, and other nonprofit organizations that issue mass-communication efforts, is that they engage in two-way communication practices to ensure the intended information is received. Also, it is important to acknowledge that the first-year college student’s FOMO experience in the midst of a global pandemic was unique and their experiences should continue to be collected in their own words.

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