Many students are considering deferring enrollment for the fall; surveys show that perhaps as many as 15% of college-bound students in the high school class of 2020 are likely to defer. Their peers in older cohorts are considering gap years, too, and many if not most international students are unlikely to be on campus in the fall.

All of these deferrals make sense with so much uncertainty about what the college experience will look like in the 2020-2021 school year. But depending on the school, students need to do their homework before making a decision for the fall. A few important considerations:

  • Will the college allow the student to defer, or will she need to reapply? With such a large cohort deferring, admissions for the 2021-2022 school year are likely to be highly competitive, since this rate of deferrals effectively increases the 2021-2022 freshman class by 15%. Students not in the top half of the admitted class, academically, might find themselves on the outside looking in a year later if they are required to reapply.
  • If the school allows deferrals, will the student’s aid package remain in place for the 2021-2022 school year? If it’s need-based, the student will receive a new aid award following completion of the FAFSA and/or Profile this fall, but merit aid may change. There may be other factors contributing to an aid package such as siblings in college at the same time that should be calculated.
  • If the student will be working during the gap year, will they lose financial aid due to their earned income? With half of likely earnings in each of two tax years for a student sitting out this year, students could lose out on two years of financial aid.
  • If the student is taking classes at a local or community college, will the credits transfer? Is there a maximum amount of credits they can take before they’re no longer considered a freshman and thus no longer eligible for scholarships they were awarded for this year?
  • Does the college allow mid-year enrollment for those unsure about fall term, or is the student committed to missing an entire school year?

Fall of 2020 is an extraordinary time, full of uncertainties. The best course of action is to get as informed as possible on any topic for which you can get specific answers. Your school can answer all of the above questions.