Graduating Seniors Consider Deferment as Pandemic Impacts College Reopenings

Mina Orlic, Editor-in-Chief

   College-bound high school seniors, as well as returning college students, are weighing their options — specifically the option to defer and take a gap year because of the coronavirus outbreak — for fall 2020. 

   According to a website dedicated to higher education, based on surveys of more than 2,000 college-bound high school seniors and current college students in March, just after the coronavirus began spreading in the United States, and in April, after three weeks of record unemployment claims, “…ten percent of college-bound seniors who had planned to enroll at a four-year college before the COVID-19 outbreak have already made plans [to defer].” Furthermore, “…fourteen percent of college students said they were unlikely to return to their current college or university in the fall, or it was ‘too soon to tell.’ Exactly three weeks later, in mid-April, that figure had gone up to 26 percent” ( 

   “Lipman Hearne… released a new survey of parents of high school seniors, conducted in March and in April. Lipman Hearne found that the April parents were more likely to want their children to go to college close to home (52 percent versus 45 percent). And it found that 56 percent of parents were interested in a delayed January start, and 46 percent said they wanted their child to start at a less expensive institution and then transfer. And 61 percent believe online instruction of the sort started by colleges this spring will reduce the quality of higher education” (

   “Colleges vary in their deferral policies: some have a policy of granting a yearlong deferral of admission upon request almost automatically, while others review requests individually and approve them based on a consideration of their merit. Some institutions are more or less agnostic about the reasons students defer as long as they don’t enroll as a degree-seeking student elsewhere, while more selective colleges say they’ll only grant deferrals if students can demonstrate a plan for meaningful alternative work, travel or volunteer experience, or if they have reasons related to a military service commitment or illness” ( 

   “A traditional gap year means a student commits to exploring something outside academics, such as working at an internship or a job, volunteering, or traveling. It doesn’t generally include being a student at a different institution” ( 

   Several colleges do not allow students to defer in order to take classes elsewhere. “Enrolling full-time for a year at a community college is not compatible with deferral policies at many colleges that bar students from enrolling as degree-seeking students at other colleges during their deferral year, or that cap the number of credits they can earn elsewhere. For example, some colleges cap that number at six, others at eight or 12. Taking more credits than allowed could mean having to reapply as a transfer student, which can have implications for eligibility for institutional aid” ( 

   According to Winterline Global Education, deferring admission could mean several different things at different universities — you will lose your housing, you could lose scholarships if they cannot be deferred too, and you could be required to reapply for admission after your year off ( 

   Moreover, according to Ms. Jill Dejean, a policy analyst at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), there could be potential financial aid consequences if a student chooses to defer. Even if a college guarantees the same merit scholarships for the following year, need-based aid is recalculated annually with the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, meaning a student’s aid package could change if his/her finances do ( 

   For students who are considering deferring their college acceptance, The Princeton Review recommends finding out what the college needs from the student in order to consider a deferment request. “Most schools require a formal letter including a description of what you plan to do with your time away from school, and, occasionally, a deposit to save your spot. And as with most college-related activities, there will be a deadline. Find out what it is before you to try to delay your enrollment” ( 

   Senior Vanessa Rogers said, “I was going to defer my admission to Cal Poly SLO in order to save some money until I did some research and found out you cannot defer from there. Instead, I’ll be going to Mesa College.”