How Do You Defer Enrollment In College?

defer enrollment in college

You might be wondering if you should defer enrollment in college. This is a common consideration, especially if you’re contemplating whether or not you’re ready to start your academic career, or you need more time to find the money to pay for college.

If you find yourself in this boat, you’re not alone. Keep these questions in mind as you try to determine if you should defer enrollment.

What Does It Mean To Defer Enrollment?

Deferring enrollment basically means you’re delaying your college start date. You intend to enroll in classes eventually, just not right now.

You can typically defer enrollment for a semester or a year. In some circumstances, you may request a longer deferment.

To defer enrollment, you first have to complete the admissions process and accept an offer of admission from a college. You’ll still have to put down a deposit, and most schools have a formal process you’ll have to follow to have your deferment request approved. You’ll want to work closely with the admissions office to make sure you complete all the paperwork it needs.

What Are Some Reasons For Deferring Enrollment In College?

Life happens. You may not be ready to enroll in college right away, or perhaps something unexpected takes you by surprise. These are some common reasons why some students decide to defer enrollment in college.

Taking A Gap Year

While historically popular in Europe and Australia, gap years are gaining traction in the United States as well. Some students decide to take a gap year to travel abroad, while others may take one to do volunteer work domestically. Whatever the reason, many colleges have processes in place for students who want to defer their enrollment to take a gap year.

Family Or Medical Situations

You might be eager to start your college education, but life has other plans for you. Maybe you received an unexpected medical diagnosis, or maybe you have family obligations that require you to put your college plans on hold. Deferring enrollment might be an option you’re considering so that you can take care of issues at home.

Cost Of Attendance And Financial Aid

Many students initially underestimate the real cost of college. You might crunch the numbers and realize you can’t make your tuition payment to start your first semester. Deferring enrollment for a semester or a year may allow you to keep your spot at your school while working to save money. This can help set you up for financial success in the long run.

Work

You might be unsure of what you’d like to do with your life and want to get some work experience before jumping into your college career. This can be a smart move if you don’t know what academic track you want to take and are trying to avoid going into too much debt.

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What You Need To Do To Defer Enrollment

If you’re considering deferring enrollment, there are a few things you’ll want to ask yourself:

  • Is this decision driven by a financial need?
  • What impact will deferment have on my long-term goals?
  • Do I have something else lined up, like starting a job or taking a gap year?

It’s important to think about these questions. While deferring enrollment may seem like an easy option, it might not necessarily be the right option. Be honest with yourself to understand why you’re deciding to defer. If you’re deferring out of financial need, for example, you might be able to work with admissions to secure more funding or go part-time for your first year.

Once you have a clear sense of your personal situation, call your school’s admissions office to inquire about the deferment process. You’ll likely have to complete some paperwork and get everything approved before your deferment is finalized.

As you work with admissions, these are some things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Not all students are eligible to defer their enrollment. Some schools might allow regularly admitted students to defer enrollment but prohibit transfers or students pulled off the waitlist from deferring. Make sure you’re eligible to defer before you begin the process.
  • You may have to submit an additional deposit. Deposits are used to secure your enrollment. Because you’re looking to defer, you might have to pay an additional deposit to provide the school with an extra assurance that you plan to enroll down the road.
  • You may have to reapply. While deferment might protect your spot at your school, you may need to reapply to an academic department or specific program. You’ll want to talk to the academic department you’ll be enrolling in to see if there’s a separate reapplication process you’ll have to follow.
  • Some parts of your financial aid package might not defer with you. You will want to talk with the financial aid office to understand if you’ll be forfeiting anything by deferring enrollment or if your entire financial aid package will carry over to your new start date.

As you work through your school’s deferment process, be certain that you understand its expectations and requirements. Your college might not allow you to enroll in classes at another school while your enrollment is deferred. You may also have certain deadlines you’ll have to meet to ensure you can enroll in the coming semester or year.

Can You Defer Enrollment After Early Decision?

It’s difficult to defer enrollment if you applied early decision, which is typically considered a binding agreement between you and the school. When you applied early decision, you indicated you understood the risks and responsibilities of doing so, and your school expects you to uphold your commitment.

That being said, a school may allow students who applied early decision to defer enrollment on a case-by-case basis. Admissions offices understand that extenuating circumstances might prevent you from enrolling on time. The best thing to do is call admissions and ask what your options are.

Pros And Cons Of Deferring Enrollment In College

As you consider deferring enrollment in college, you’ll want to make sure the benefits outweigh the risks. These are a few things to consider:

Pros

  • Gap years are opportunities for personal growth. This is the best time in your life to travel and grow. By taking a gap year, you might be more mature and have a broader perspective when you come back to begin your academic career.
  • It’s a chance to build your resume. While college is an important part of securing a job in the future, it isn’t the only determinant of professional success. Employers value work and volunteer experience too. Taking time off to learn a skill or build your resume can actually help you later on.
  • It can help you save money. College is expensive, and not everyone wants to finance their education entirely with student loans. Delaying your start date can be a wise financial move that might help you avoid massive student loan debt.
  • It may improve your academic performance. According to the Gap Year Association, research points to a positive correlation between delaying the start of your college career and academic performance. While taking a gap year doesn’t guarantee better grades, the experience could help you start your college career as a stronger student.

Cons

  • There may be extra costs. Depending on your school, you might be expected to pay a second deposit or reapply to a specific program. This can set you back hundreds of dollars if you aren’t prepared for the added costs.
  • You can’t use deferment to apply elsewhere. Maybe you didn’t get into your dream school, and you’re thinking that deferring your admission is a smart way to apply again. Think twice before you do that. If your school finds out, it can withdraw your acceptance and nullify your enrollment.
  • Your financial aid package may change. Before you defer, understand what you might be forfeiting. You may lose a merit scholarship or educational grant that won’t defer with you.
  • Your housing arrangement may change. Schools located in areas with a high cost of living may offer first-year students on-campus or subsidized housing. If you defer your enrollment, you may miss out on university-sponsored housing.
  • It may present social challenges. While a gap year is good for personal growth, it also sets you apart from other students. Deferring enrollment can impact how you interact with other students and change the social dynamics of your college career.

Bottom Line

Deferring enrollment in college is an option you can consider if you’d like to take a gap year or a personal situation arises that prevents you from enrolling as planned. A gap year may also give you the chance to build a financial cushion or improve your resume before enrolling.

Most schools have formal policies in place to approve deferment requests. Be sure to evaluate the costs and benefits of deferring enrollment before you call your school’s admissions office to begin working through the process.

Editor: Ashley Barnett Reviewed by: Robert Farrington

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