Nov. 25, 2020
A gap year may not have been part of your college plan prior to COVID, but if you're a high school senior, current circumstances may have you wondering if deferral is right for you. Here are six questions to help you reflect on your priorities, goals and options and to ultimately make the right choice for you.
Three of the big reasons why some students are choosing to defer is because they want to stay close to home, no longer want to spend on college, or feel that remote classes are not for them. None of these have to do with not wanting an education, but rather with the current climate. Consider whether there's an academic option that would allow you to stay local, or which offers in-person classes, and look into whether there are any discounts available as a result of changes in academic programming. If you can't find a way to satisfy your current needs, look into ways in which you can still stay active during your year away from school.
Each school has its own policies on deferral, so you'll need to confirm with them individually. Let your high school guidance counselor know you're considering deferral as early as possible so that they can help you secure accurate information and procedures.
If you're not yet positive that you're going to defer, your application cycle is the same as any other student's. We highly encourage seniors considering a gap year to apply as if they were planning on attending in the fall, as deferrals are not automatically granted. It's a lot easier to apply for college this year while you're still at school with the teachers and guidance counselors who can write you recommendations and help you with other application questions. If you apply after you graduate, gathering all those people and resources becomes much more challenging. So send in your applications, take the SAT or ACT (when applicable) and gather those recommendations.
Your college will likely require you to submit a formal request for approval. This will usually consist of a letter with an explanation as to why you want to defer and how you will spend your time. By now, you've spent a lot of time weighing your options and planning your gap year, so make sure to draft a letter that conveys your careful consideration! Edit your letter just like you would your acceptance essay. You'll need to find out the deadline for submitting your request and if there's a deposit necessary to hold your place. Once you know your deferral is approved, determine who you'll need to contact at the end of your gap year to proceed with enrollment, securing housing, reapply for financial aid, etc.
As we said above, deferrals are not automatic. If there are limited spots, your request for deferral may be denied, at which point you'll need to decide if you want to begin the year as scheduled or reapply next year for admission. Additionally, you should ask schools about what happens to your financial aid package if you defer. It's possible some scholarships or grants may not still be available to you next year.
A gap year isn't an excuse to take a break, it's an opportunity to get experience and do some personal growth. Consider the path you want to go down and what you can do to steer yourself in that direction. Volunteering, learning a new skill or language and taking on a job or internship are some of the many opportunities you can take advantage of during your gap year. Be clear in your request for deferral about how you intend to enrich yourself over the gap year, as that will improve the chances of your deferral being approved.
Gap years are not one size fits all, and it's a decision only you can make. While the question of "should I or shouldn't I?" is unnerving, trust that your thoughtful deliberation will guide you to the answer that's right for you. For more information on college admissions during COVID and beyond, subscribe to our YouTube channel.