College is the best four years of your life, and so the saying goes. For many planning to pursue college, doing so directly after high school is, in the most traditional sense, the natural progression. But, over the past several years’ colleges have begun seeing a shift. Whether it be Covid or other reasons, more students are evaluating their decision to defer college for a semester, full year, or longer after high school graduation.
There are many reason as to why students are considering this option, and a mental recharge might be exactly what’s needed. In this article, we will discuss the meaning of deferring college admissions, evaluate reasons as to why a student may choose to defer their college journey, and how to best handle the process. There are pros and cons to keep in mind as you decide which path is best for you.
What it means to defer college admissions:
So, you completed your college applications and CONGRATULATIONS, you even received a number of acceptance offers. And while mom has already bought a comforter with your future alma maters school colors, you can’t seem to ignore that voice inside of you that’s saying, “Hmm, maybe this isn’t the right time.” Deferring admission provides accepted students the opportunity to postpone their enrollment date by a semester, year, or in some cases, longer. But, having a plan and clear communication with the admission office is the best course of action. Institutions are not all the same, and it’s important for students to fully understand the college’s terms and guidelines for admissions deferral. This may include a deposit (enrollment, housing, etc.), a detailed plan for the gap year – colleges will want to know how you plan to invest your time over the year, and more.
What to keep in mind -
· Complete the application process senior year of high school: Students can’t escape the buzz – everyone has been talking about college applications since junior year, if not sooner. College/guidance counselors and admissions consultants will give the same clear advice to rising seniors - even if they plan to take a gap year, it is best to complete college applications as though they intend to enroll directly after high school. There are many reasons as to why, and the biggest reason is that students can change their mind. It is best to secure admissions, knowing that the plan could shift. Communicating to a college admissions counselor of plans to defer admissions should come after an acceptance letter has been received. Prior knowledge of such plans may affect the admission decision, and a spot will be offered to a student who is more likely to enroll in August.
· Do research and have a plan: When deciding to defer admissions, it is important to have a clear plan of action. Often, colleges will support a student’s decision to take time off. But postponing enrollment should be done with purpose. After a student has been accepted by a college and they are ready to start the conversation with an admission counselor, it is safe to assume the question will quickly arise – “How do you plan to invest your time?” A student may decide to seek employment and save money, spend time abroad, do significant service work, or pursue other meaningful endeavors. An admission officer may also ask why you plan to take a gap year. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to have an intentional response. Assure them that they admitted a thoughtful, mature, curious, and passionate person.
· Avoid changing your academic profile: Some students who opt to defer admissions may also decide they want to dabble in college courses during the year. Unfortunately, this will impact your academic profile, leading to big changes in your student status. Students are admitted to college based on the academic profile they submitted for evaluation. Taking several courses for college credit will change a student’s status, potentially leading to reapplication for admission. This could also negatively impact any scholarship or financial aid award money granted by the institution. Generally, after earning a minimum of 15 college credit hours, students are considered transfer applicants, changing their enrollment type.
· Learn the facts from the admission office: The process for deferring a college acceptance can be different at each institution. The college may have limits on the timeframe of deferral, they may require you to sign an agreement, pay a deposit, etc. But, sometimes the decision to defer can also affect students in other ways. One example, a student may not be guaranteed the same scholarship/financial aid benefits they were initially offered. A student may not be guaranteed a seat within the school/major in which they applied, or housing on campus may not be granted. On the other hand, there may be additional benefits to deferring. For example, if a college over enrolls their freshman class, they may welcome your deferral request and “sweeten the deal” in other ways, such as granting first dibs on course selection or guaranteed housing in the dorm of choice. Whichever path is chosen after high school graduation, collect as much information as necessary to make the best and most informed decision.