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How to Defer Admission and Take a Gap Year

Accepted at your top choice school but feeling hesitant? Nervous about jumping straight into an academic track? Afraid of possible burnout after an intense high school experience? Feeling a little wanderlust?

It’s not uncommon to feel a little hesitation, or feel overworked after four years of hard academic, extracurricular, and test prep work. If you have gained admission into your top college, but are thinking a year of real-life experience might give you time to reflect and gain perspective on your goals, go for it! Many undergraduate institutions actually encourage taking a gap year – as long as it is for a productive reason – and many schools say those students come back and are more prepared mentally and more focused for their studies than they would otherwise have been.

Before you take the leap – take these five steps.

1. Check with the institution on their policy

Columbia and many other schools accept deferred enrollment – MIT and Harvard actually encourage admitted students to take a gap year! But Berkeley does not and instead requires students to reapply if they decide not to enroll in their intended semester. Verify your own institution’s deferment policy before taking the leap.

2. Check with the financial aid department

Besides checking in with admissions, check the financial aid department. If you have received a scholarship, will deferment force you to give it up? Or – if you defer, perhaps you can reapply for scholarships you did not receive. If your main reason for deferment is to work for a year, how will that affect your financial aid package?

3. Consider your main gap year options

If your institution’s admissions policy allows deferment, and you’ve determined financial aid is fine, make sure you have a few solid reasons to defer! Work, travel, military service, internships and religious service are all great reasons to take a gap year. Make sure you have some sort of work or travel plans lined up. The more specific you can be in your letter to admissions, the more supportive the institution will be.

4. Step back and take a bird’s eye view

Try to zoom out and picture where you are in life on a continuum. After the pressure to do well in high school, test well, and get into college, you might feel worn and as if time has compacted and raced by. But you’re probably still in the first two decades of your life. That’s young! You have time, stepping back to see that might help you decide whether or not you are in a place to take a gap year or not.

5. Send in your deferment decision

If you have checked the previous four steps, you are ready to make the commitment. Again, check your institution’s specific deferment policy. Generally, the enrollment deposit is required, and a letter to admissions explaining your reasons for taking a gap year. Make sure you receive confirmation – and then, you are ready to go!


This post is titled “How to Defer Admission and Take a Gap Year.” It was written by Marta Casey, a writer on Top Test Prep’s team.

To learn more about Top Test Prep’s programs, call (800) 501 – Prep or visit TopTestPrep.com.

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