college deferment during COVID-19

College Deferment in the Time of COVID-19


Colleges shuttered, classes held online, and no clear sign of when everything will return to normal. While some institutions are pledging to once again open in the new academic year, others are hedging their bets by moving increasing numbers of courses online. 

While institutions themselves are uncertain, uncertainty plagues both current and prospective students even more. They may have gotten into a college, but will it even be open when it comes time to attend? Will they be paying for virtual lectures alone; missing out on many of the essential elements of the college experience? 

There is, however, a way around this problem for students. They may decide to defer their acceptance, so they could attend without having to apply again and take a gap year instead. 

In a recent survey, 17% of students are considering delaying their college start until Winter 2021, and 16% are considering a full gap year. How can a student do these things, and what should they do if they aren’t at college? At Ivy Scholars, we have experience guiding students through every stage of their journey to college, ensuring they have a fulfilling educational experience even if they aren’t at college. 

How to Defer

So, someone wants to put off the start of their college journey. How do they do it? 

They begin a process called deferment, wherein they ask colleges to reserve their place until the next semester or academic year. Students defer admission for many reasons: a desire to mature more, financial difficulties, health and family concerns, or merely a desire for a break from school before beginning anew. Schools will generally want a specific stated reason for deferment, and some will not consider the current pandemic a valid reason, according to a recent article. Many schools will also want to see what a student has done or accomplished during their gap year; they want to make sure the activities undertaken are meaningful. 

A student should research and contact any schools from which they are considering asking for deferred enrollment; because policies will differ, and each school will be responding to the current situation differently. 

The Process

All of the following steps should be performed before a student accepts admission to a university, and before the deadline for accepting a place has passed. Attempting to defer after either of these will cause undue trouble for admissions officers, who will, therefore, view deferment requests less favorably. 

After a student determines the reasons for why they want to defer, they should contact the admissions department by email. If the department doesn’t reply within two weeks, reach out again. Most universities will have conditions for allowing a student to defer. These usually include: 

  • Placing a deposit and signing a statement of intent to attend after the period of deferment. 
  • An explanation of why you want deferral.
  • A description of what you will do with your time off. 
  • A promise you will not attend or apply to college elsewhere. 

Students who take classes elsewhere, such as at a community college, will be treated as transfer students instead of deferred applicants, and will not have their places reserved.

Most schools have a limit on how many deferrals they accept each year, so beginning this process earlier will only help a student’s chances. Many schools are also considering changing their policies to reflect the current situation, although each school is taking an individual approach, with no cohesive picture of how the next academic year will be handled. Ivy Scholars is here and able to help guide students through the process of requesting deferment, and navigating the demands of various institutions.

As the current pandemic has impacted colleges, many are being forced to re-evaluate how they teach classes, and what the student experience can and should look like. As part of this, deadlines for acceptance were vastly extended, and many schools reconsidered how to deal with requests for deferment. For example, Cornell has stated that they will be very flexible with deferment, and are allowing more students onto, and off of, the waitlist due to this decision. Ivy Scholars offers guidance for every step of this process, from what to do if a student wants to get off the waitlist, to the best ways to write to a university and request deferment. 

If not College, Then What? 

So, when a student doesn’t head straight to college, what are they supposed to do with their time? 

There is a tradition of gap years, during which time a student volunteers, travels abroad, works, or develops personal projects. Many of these options are going to be impacted by the pandemic as well, as nations close their borders and airports are shuttered. That does not mean gap years are no longer feasible, merely that they too will need to be reimagined in light of current circumstances. 

While some of the traditional avenues for gap years are unavailable, online opportunities abound. Students can volunteer, learn languages, see lectures by experts in all fields, and learn any and all subjects from the comfort of their homes. While these may not be the classical gap year experiences, students can still learn new skills and explore individual projects, which will prepare them for when they do enter college. Projects explored online and at home should not be discounted due to their medium, but instead valued for the knowledge they impart and experience they provide to a student. 

At Ivy Scholars, we know how to guide students to activities where they will thrive, in order to complement and expand their interests. We have a depth of experience matching students with internships, online courses, or individual projects that spur their curiosity, and allow them to explore in greater depth the topics that matter to them. Each student is unique, and so each will have different needs and desires. It is important to meet students where they are, in order to help them get where they’re going. 

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