With the pandemic creating lots of uncertainty, tons of college bound high school seniors are considering deferring their college admissions for a year. Deciding on a college is already hard enough, but add in a pandemic and it feels that much harder to decide. College bound high school students weigh out their academic interests, social fit, career aspirations, and college affordability when they narrow down where to go to college. But it’s hard to assess what the on campus experience will be like when colleges are still deciding whether to only have first-year students to campus in the fall, splitting curriculum between on campus and online, and another half a dozen scenarios for learning. That is why many are considering the wait and see approach to starting college and asking for their college’s first choice for a deferral. If you are serious about delaying your college start, then you may want to consider a few essentials.
Know the Process to Request a Deferral
Some colleges make it easy for a student to defer. As long as you fill out the paperwork and leave a $300 deposit before the first day of classes, Utah State University makes it easy for you to defer college. They review deferrals on a case-by-case basis and will hold merit scholarships like their Utah Flagship and Utah Academic Scholarships. For other colleges, you have to make a decision now. As a college bound first year student, Fresno State requires that you make the request by July 1st. Every college has their own rules so make sure you understand the policies when you defer.
Get Ready for a Large Nonrefundable Deposit
In most cases, colleges require students to put down money to save their spot for the next year when they request a deferment. College deposits are typically non refundable. Although the typical college deposit ranges from $50 to $500 for your regular admission cycle , we have heard that some colleges may require a larger deposit for those requesting a deferral that may be double the normal college deposit. At Brandeis University, students are required to submit a nonrefundable $800 deferral deposit if they want to defer for one year. If you are looking at a nonrefundable deposit of $500 to $1,000, you really want to ensure that you plan to still go to that college in the fall of 2021.
Will this Affect Your Ability to Pay for College?
You must review each source of paying for college separately. Student Loans are always available, but work-study and gift aid (grants and scholarships) will depend on the college. Places like Suffolk University normally will award you a proportionate share of their previously granted full-year merit and need-based award. For others, you may no longer be eligible or you need to reapply and compete with the candidates for the new academic year like the talent-based athletics, dance, music, and theatre scholarships at Westminster College. Don’t assume your financial aid will be the same. Ask about each source of financial aid to know if there is a financial downside to deferring your college admission.
Understand if You Can Transfer College Credits
Many colleges don’t want you to attend another college if they grant you a deferment. Some colleges have cautionary language about this like Willamette indicating “students may take limited coursework to maintain academic focus [during the deferral period.” Others are more explicit. Emerson College forbids students from taking more than 2 courses and being formally matriculated at another college. Tulane University cautions that:
If you obtain credit during your gap year from another university or a college credit granting program, and would like to transfer the credits you earn, you will need to reapply for admission to Tulane as a transfer student.
So if you were thinking that you’d enroll full-time at your local community college and apply for financial aid to help with costs, you’ll be out of luck to transfer those credits and apply your deferral deposit. If you are going down this path, then you should keep that deposit money, decline your admission, and then reapply as a transfer college student.
Colleen MacDonald Krumwiede is a financial aid and paying for college expert with over a decade of financial aid experience at Stanford GSB, Caltech, and Pomona College and another decade at educational finance and technology companies servicing higher education. She guides go-to-market strategy and product development at Quatromoney to transform the way families afford college.