COVID-19 and Gap Year Policies

As a gap year consultant and a huge fan of gap years it pains me to say this, but we may see colleges much more reluctant to approve deferrals than in a normal cycle.  If students are faced with starting college online, I see a lot of them requesting gap years–and maybe not just incoming freshmen but also current students requesting leaves of absence. This could be fear of missing out on a traditional college experience, concern about the quality of the academic experience online overall or a belief that an online education is not worth the tuition of an on-campus experience, or they simply can’t afford to come this fall. If those numbers surge, let’s say to 10% or even 20%, not many colleges are in a position to say “no problem, see you in 2021.”

I am by no means an expert on enrollment management and I’m soliciting insight from those who are, since I’m sure there are layers to this that I’m not even thinking of. In the meantime, I’m telling my Class of ’20 not to assume that recent gap year policies will hold in this environment.  That doesn’t mean it’s off the table, but it means there are a lot of additional questions to ask as you’re making your enrollment decision for May 1 (or June 1, if your colleges have extended their deadlines).