There have been numerous articles in national publications predicting that as a result of COVID-19, up to 20% of incoming college freshmen may either be taking a gap year this fall, or postponing going to college altogether.
This news isn’t consistent with what we’ve heard from parents in our Paying for College 101 Facebook group about their students’ plans.
To get a better idea of what families are really considering, we polled parents in our Facebook group.
The results follow, along with parent comments on a timely and related topic posted by one of our Facebook members.
What Is a Gap Year?
A gap year can be a semester or an entire school year where you are not enrolled in a full-time higher-education program, but are working to gain experience in some other way.
What Does It Mean to Defer?
Deferment is when you delay starting college. Sometimes a school defers your application, and other times a student may request it.
Requesting deferment is not a guarantee you will get it, and the amount of time you can defer varies between schools. If a school defers an application it means the school wants more information about the student, such as grades, etc., before deciding if they are accepted.
Results of Our Poll
We had over 1100 responses to our Paying for College 101 FB Group Poll about taking a gap year/postponing attendance.
Of those who responded, 90% said their student is going to college in the fall whether classes are online or in person; 4% said their student will attend college in the fall only if classes are in person; 3% said their student is undecided; 1% said their student is choosing community college in the fall and will transfer at a later point; and 1% said their student requested a gap year and it was approved.
Less than 1% (5 respondents) said their student is requesting a gap year and doesn’t know if it’s approved.
Reasons Behind the Decisions (Comments have been edited slightly for clarity and length)
I put down the first choice, that she will be attending college regardless of online or in person, but there is maybe a 5% chance she takes a gap year. She really wants to start college but is considering applying to a couple of local AmeriCorps programs that are outdoors and will allow for social distancing and match her career interests. Lili
We are coming off a gap year. Hell no, she’s going. Kimberly
I have one that will be a freshman and two returning. All will return no matter what. Katie
Just committed today! Rebecca
Our daughter will attend no matter what, but her state school has mentioned offering a hybrid plan and/or whatever level of comfort you have to pick which classes to attend online versus in person. She has a chronic health condition so this is very appealing. She prefers in person but will likely choose to do some from home to reduce risk, as she has always planned to commute. Allison
I have three in school. They all plan to go in fall. Gina
My son is only going to return if classes are in person. Jenny
I will have a college senior and a freshman. They will both go to their respective schools if the schools allow it! If they make them start online at home that’s what they’ll do. They will do whatever the schools ask of them. I don’t want either to miss out on their monumental years!! Stephanie
No category for my son. He just got his associate’s degree and does not like the online learning platform. He’s ready to transfer to a four-year school as a junior, and applied to a couple schools. Last week he was offered a job at a hospital, in a position that is relevant to his major. He will use this as a paid internship of sorts, and will defer transfer/admission until the COVID situation is more clear. We’re all on board, and feel like this is a solid plan. Suzy
My daughter is an existing college student and will be living at her college either way, online or in person. Kimberly
Will the Class of 2021 Be Impacted?
A Parent Asks: Will 2020 Deferrals Spell Trouble For the Class of 2021?
Will there be fewer slots at colleges for the class of 2021 if many of the current seniors defer?
From Business Insider: “All of those students deferring admission — and the international students who may not be allowed to travel — will hypothetically matriculate in 2021. That means that the class of 2021 could be competing with two years’ worth of high schoolers for a college spot — and the class of 2020 has already secured theirs.”
Our Group Members Weigh In (Comments have been edited slightly for clarity and length)
No one can really answer this, but I’m thinking most kids deferring will be international students. Colleges won’t let every kid defer, they just can’t. So I think it will be difficult for international kids. For domestic, I’m just not sure. I’m a private counselor and none of my current seniors are planning to defer. Debbie
With a 2021 graduating student, if a significant percentage of 2020 graduates defer starting or delay applying until next year, there will be an exponential increase in competition for the finite number of freshman spots at universities. And, if in the aftermath of COVID pandemic, schools are required to have singles-only dorm rooms, and social distancing in the classrooms–that further decreases the number of potential acceptances/opportunities for the Class of 2021. Jill
If my daughter defers until fall 2021 she will still get admitted, but may not get the same scholarship money. They will hold her scholarship money if she only defers until January 2021. Since she’s not willing to chance getting less merit, she will go sometime this year vs. waiting a full year. It appears to me that this is their attempt to hold admission spots and dollars for the class of 2021. GS
I think the tuition/enrollment scenarios for colleges could change so dramatically that they may be willing to consider all kinds of scenarios if it means your child will commit to paying tuition. Between parents and students willing or not to travel farther away, or at all, to college, and the residual economic impact upon families, it seems really hard to anticipate what they will or won’t do in a year. Katheryn
This even impacts the class of 2022, as they have been told that the class of 2021 gets priority if/when the SAT is offered again. Also, will there be a PSAT? I know as a parent of a student in the class of 2022 that we’re in a better boat, but I see ripple effects on many levels for many years. Toby
I’m a private counselor and also a parent of a current senior. There aren’t any kids in his class planning to defer, and none of my clients are planning to defer. One thing that may ease your mind is to remember that students asking for a deferral need to have a plan in place for the year before they enroll. Many colleges will not grant a deferral for a student to take classes elsewhere (community college), so students need to have a plan for volunteering, or work or travel experience, that is confirmed. Many typical gap year experiences like this may be hard to come by this fall. Liz
Colleges are going to be out millions of dollars this year. They’re furloughing professors and cutting salaries. There’s good reason to think they may try and expand the next year’s class to help make up for some of the losses. Melissa
It seems to me that if the class of ‘24 is smaller, they’ll have more room at a college for the class of ‘25. They would have to make some changes like offering more sections of freshman seminars, etc., but it doesn’t have to mean that the class of ‘25 will be shut out. The colleges will want to get up to capacity, so they’ll find a way to make it work. Amy
I work at a college and here are my thoughts. No, there will not be fewer spots. Look at it this way: you admit 100 students this year, and 30 say they are going to defer, so 70 come in. Overall tuition revenue is down 30% for this year. Next year, if those 30 students decide to come, they will still admit 100 students, to make up for the revenue downfall this year. Admitting less than 100 is compounding the problem of less revenue. Trust me, schools will adjust, because overall they are still handling the same amount of students they would under normal circumstances. Now that there are some other factors in play, deferment for many will not include a deferment in merit. Many who defer a year will lose merit entirely, and may not be eligible to receive it during their last (fifth) year of college. Another factor is international students. If they are unable to obtain a visa for fall, they may not start college until spring or fall 2021. Most international students pay full price. Colleges could potentially admit a higher than normal amount of international students for fall 2021. Sheri
We’re down to the wire, as students make their final decisions about college.
And when they do, we’ll be here to keep you up to date with news, tips, and informative conversation.
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