Taking a Gap Year? Here's How to Defer Your College Acceptance

The acceptance letters are in. By now, most college-bound students have heard from the colleges they applied to and they are either in, out or added to the dreaded wait-list. But for a growing number of students, the lure of college can wait a year. These students are opting to take a Gap Year in order to grow, explore and mature before beginning their college career.

Successful college students are generally self-possessed, engaged in their learning and active on campus. Students with these qualities tend to graduate on time, avoid transfer and contribute more passionately to the vibrancy of campus life. And new data demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of Gap Year students develop these qualities on their time out.

It’s no wonder, then, that institutions of higher learning are becoming increasingly accommodating to students taking a Gap Year. Some prominent universities such as Princeton, Tufts and Elon have designed in-house Gap Year programs for their incoming freshman. Others, such as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Florida State University, offer scholarship funding for Gap Year students. And many others simply allow deferrals of admission, meaning they will hold a student’s spot for a year while they take a Gap Year.

If you are a high school senior eager to take a Gap Year, here are a few suggested steps to take to defer your admission from your future college:

1. Ask your top choice college about their deferral policy, or check the American Gap Association’s database. The database lists each college’s policy on Gap Year deferral and is organized by state.

2. If you have applied for financial aid or scholarships, inquire about the policy on securing your funding for the following year.

3. Design and finalize your Gap Year plans. If you have not already chosen programs and activities for your year, begin planning. If you need additional help, reach out to your parents, guidance counselor or a Gap Year advisor for assistance.

4. Most deferral-friendly colleges will have a procedure that includes writing a deferral letter detailing your intended Gap Year plans. Be as specific as possible in crafting your letter. You should address why you want to take a Gap Year, what you plan doing and how it will make you a better member of their student body as a result. See a sample deferral request letter here.

5. Be sure to submit a deferral request before your college’s deadline. This varies from school to school so make sure to check.

6. Follow any procedures that your college requests of you during your Gap Year. This may include a mid-year check in or a reflection upon completion of your Gap Year.

7. When you arrive on campus seek out other returned gappers. Some colleges, like Middlebury, have a Gap Year club. This helps ease the transition from an amazing Gap Year into a meaningful college experience.

Deferring college acceptance builds the Gap Year into the college experience, creating a transitional year that sets the foundation for a meaningful college career.

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