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Resource CenterParent ResourcesCollege AdmissionsDeferring College Enrollment

Should My Student Consider Deferring Enrollment to College?

By Vicki Nelson, courtesy of College Parents of America

Your “almost” college student has been accepted to college.  Congratulations!  That is cause for celebration – and probably some relief.  But your student isn’t sure that beginning college just now is the right thing for him.  Some students may decide to defer their enrollment for a year (or even two) after they have been accepted.  You may wonder what this means and how to go about it.

A student may decide to defer enrollment for any number of reasons.  He may wish to travel or study abroad, to work to earn money to pay for tuition, to take a year to pursue a sport or hobby.  The student may have health or family issues that need to be addressed, she may decide to take an extra, post-graduate year of study to increase skills or gain maturity, or the student may simply need a break from school in order to recharge and find focus.

Like so many issues, policies regarding deferring enrollment vary from college to college. Your student should check with his or her school regarding policies and procedures.

Essentially, however, once a student has been accepted to a school, and paid the required deposit, he may request to defer or delay his enrollment.  The student is usually required to submit his request in writing, and there may be an institutional deadline. The school may require that the student submit a plan of how he will spend the year off, or submit reasons for requesting the year.  Policies regarding appropriate reasons for deferring vary from school to school.  If the deferral is granted, the school will hold a place for the student for the following year.  Some schools may not allow a student to defer for a partial year because entering mid-year may be more difficult.  There may be housing, financial aid, or orientation difficulties with mid-year entry.

If a student plans to take a gap year, or year off, there are several important advantages to applying, being admitted, and requesting a deferral rather than waiting to apply to college after the year off.

  • It may be easier to keep up with requirements and deadlines, and to request letters of recommendation, etc. while everyone else in high school is doing the same thing.  Once the student leaves the natural rhythm of the school year, it may be more difficult to keep track of the college application process. 
  • Some students may lose some momentum during a year off.  If the admission process is done, it will be easier for them to reenter the academic world. 
  • Having the admission process behind them, and knowing that they have a place waiting for them, will relieve them of pressure during the year off. 
  • Finally, students who have been accepted to a college and chosen to defer enrollment for a year, are usually still considered students during their gap year.  This means that they may be eligible for student health insurance, student internships, student programs, or student financial assistance (not institutional financial aid).
If your student is considering requesting to defer enrollment, there are some important questions that she should ask her institution.

  • Is there a deadline for requesting to defer? 
  • Will she need documentation of how she spends her year? 
  • What will she need to do the following year to reenter? 
  • Are there deadlines for reentry of which she should be aware? 
  • How will the deferral affect her financial aid package for the following year? 
  • If she will be earning money during her year off, how will that affect financial aid?
If your student feels that a year off from college will benefit her – for any number of reasons – then a plan to defer enrollment for a year may be the answer.  Many students who do choose to take a gap year before college, return to school life with a much more mature and focused attitude.  As long as he has completed the process with the college, and asked the important questions, he may be able to take the year off knowing that his place will be waiting for him when he returns.


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