During normal times only a handful of incoming freshmen think of deferring their admission. But these are not normal times. Many of today's seniors are choosing colleges amidst confusion and chaos. Add different enrolling dates and wacky waitlists to the mix and it get's even worse.
Colleges and universities vary in their deferral policies: a few have a policy of granting a semester or yearlong deferral of admission upon request almost automatically, while others review requests individually and approve them based on a consideration of their merit. What students need to know is that a deferment won't just happen. It needs to be planned, like a gap year. You need to be able to show that there's a reason, such as a hardship, for your college to delay your admission.
Most of the students who are looking into deferring admission this year fall into one of the following categories:
A. They've been doing online learning for the past couple of months as high school seniors and are not looking forward to the prospect of continuing this method of learning in the fall.
B. Families are wondering if it's worth paying full tuition for the coming year if half or more of it will be online learning from home.
C. They've been dreaming about freshmen year and everything that comes with it so they'd like to wait this pandemic out in order to start college the way they had foreseen it.
While deferring might seem like an easy answer to all of the unknowns we're facing, it's not a feasible plan for most students. Colleges spend a lot of time creating the freshman class each year, and even if students are learning in an online setting, they will still be able to be part of the community.
As weeks go by, it seems that most colleges will continue online classes in the fall; however, they are still planning for various scenarios which could include having a limited amount of students on campus in the fall or possibly waiting until later in the year to start classes. Regardless of which way colleges go, remind your student that they chose this college for various reasons, including classes, majors, activities, and the community they foster. None of this has changed as a result of COVID-19. The freshman class your student was admitted to is a carefully curated group of students, hand-picked to work well together and learn from each other. If your student has truly found a college that is the right fit for them, then there is no doubt that this college has, in turn, chosen a class of freshmen who are the right fit for each other.
Moreover, by this fall, universities will have had plenty of time to adapt to this situation and design proper orientations, classrooms, and other online environments to help students meet and work with each other in the most interactive and effective ways possible. While they try to set the best possible plan to educate their students, they're also trying to put in place other plans to get students back on campus as soon as possible. University of California San Diego is looking into what it would take to test 65,000 students and faculty on a monthly basis.
During this temporary period of upheaval (and always remember, it is temporary), your student will be receiving the same curriculum from the same professors whose classes they have been looking forward to.
That's another reason why colleges reject the idea that refunds should be issued for current students (who have been on a rampage suing some institutions including Brown, Columbia and Cornell, as well as large public schools including Purdue in Indiana and the University of Colorado in Boulder) because students are learning from the same professors who teach on campus and students are still earning credits toward their degrees. Colleges and universities are working hard to ensure students are still taking classes taught by qualified faculty and they're still offering tutoring services, academic advising, faculty office hours and library services.
This may not be the ideal start to freshman year that your student has been envisioning, but it will still happen with the same freshman class that they have been looking forward to meeting. It will happen with the classes and professors they have earned the opportunity to learn from. Deferring enrollment for an entire year is not the right response to this temporary disturbance; your student shouldn't let this pandemic disrupt their lives even more than it already has. Make no mistake, 2020 is not a perfect year. But it is their year.