Should My Student Consider Deferring Enrollment for College?

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.

In our next post, we’ll look more closely at some options and considerations for a gap year.

Related Posts:

Should My Student Consider Taking a Gap Year Before Starting College?

Students May Be Accepted To College, But for Spring Admission

The Path To Graduation: What’s Your Student’s Timeline?

If your student is in high school, check out our e- 60 Practical Tips for Using the High School Years to Prepare for College Success. This guide is not about getting in to college. It is about how to work now to help your student succeed once they get to college. Open the door and get the conversations started!

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3 thoughts on “Should My Student Consider Deferring Enrollment for College?”

  1. We need some serious advise. My daughter with a child who lives with me has been studying very very hard and consciencioisly for several years and also helping me with some things, I’m disabled. Suddenly the college dropped her from the nursing program. Informing her during a semester break email about her GPA. But their complaint doesn’t match the handbook stayed requirements. This is her whole life just smashed before her eyes in one email! Not to mention a big loan! I/ we read your articles but still need help/ advice please. We’re desperate! She’s a grown up mature person. Very smart & responsible. I’m afraid the school is a scam here in our town. Rockford University IL).

    • Christine – I’m sure you and your daughter are devastated right now. It sounds as though she is working very hard and juggling many things. You are making a good first step by doing some research and reviewing the handbook. Be sure to also look at the university catalog as that may also contain information. You say that “suddenly the college dropped her . . . ” Rarely does something as serious as dismissing a student from a program or school happen suddenly. Did your daughter receive any warnings? Was she aware of her GPA? If she plans to appeal this decision, these are questions that she should be prepared to answer. I’d suggest that she find someone at the school – a trusted instructor, an advisor, or dean, with whom she can talk. This may begin by understanding how the decision was made and finding out whether there is any opportunity to appeal the decision. If there appears to be a question about the school’s stated policy, this would be a good time to discuss that with the school. If the decision is final at this point, she may want to learn whether there is an opportunity to be readmitted at a later date. Before pursuing an appeal or readmission, your daughter may need to think carefully about why her GPA is not up to standard. Is this the best time for her to be pursuing this degree? Does she have too many responsibilities and might things improve later? She needs to be able to do the work required. Communication with the school is an important step toward understanding the rationale behind the decision and what best next steps might be. The path is not always a straight one. Good luck to both your daughter and to you.


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