How to Write a Deferral Letter for a Gap Year

For prospective Gap Year students, the spring is an exciting
time. You’ve heard from your colleges and have made choice about where to go. And once that’s decided, you need to ask them
to hold your spot for a year in the form of a deferral letter. A deferral
letter is a formal request to your future college that asks them to hold your
admission for a year so you can take gap time.
You can find out a university’s deferral policy on their
website or via a phone call to the admission’s office. If a school is
deferral-friendly, they will ask you to write a letter about why you want to
take gap time and what you plan on doing. If your deferral is accepted, you
usually have to put down a deposit and voila! Gap time secured.

After speaking with several admissions counselors and
walking students through deferral letters myself, here are some useful tips for
writing your letter:
1. Be Specific: Colleges have different requirements for
what they want to see in a deferral letter, but generally, the more specific
the better. “We require students to demonstrate a concrete plan for their year
of how they are actually spending time,” explains Jason Tesone, Director of
Admissions at Vassar College. This means including the names of specific
programs or detailing an itinerary if you are not going through a program.
2. Address the “Why”: Colleges want to know why you would like to take a Gap Year
and what you hope to get out of it. Be honest about your reasons for taking
time out and describe how you want to grow as a person. Peter Osgood, an
admissions director at the University of Puget Sound adds, “We want them to
hone in on their personal goals…we don’t them to end up spending a year
watching reruns of bad tv shows.”
3. Quality not Quantity: “A deferral letter needn’t be five
pages long, one page is completely sufficient,” says Tesone. Draft an email as
you would a formal letter and use about 4-6 beefy paragraphs to describe your
plans.
4. Things Change: “It’s ok if plans change, in fact we
expect them to!” says Osgood. Most schools will not hold it against you if you decide
to do something different than what you outlined in your letter. University of
Puget Sound has Gap Year students check in the February before they start
college to update them on how their plans evolved. Check with your school to
see if they also require this step.
5. Adhere to deadlines: All colleges that offer a Gap Year
deferral have a firm deadline that usually falls between May-July. While there
doesn’t seem to be any benefit to rushing to get a deferral request in early,
you do have to meet the deadline for consideration.
Both Osgood and Tesone agree that they’ve seen significant
benefits to students who have taken gap time. “We pretty much always grant
deferrals if they meet our criteria and find that students who take meaningful
time away arrive at Vassar as great students,” says Tesone.
Here is an example of a great deferral letter written by an
EnRoute student several years ago and edited for anonymity:
John Smith
Director of Admissions
Aplus College
451 School Drive
Boston, MA 12345
Dear Mr. Smith,

I am writing to request a one-year deferral of my admission to Aplus College. I
was accepted into the Aplus College Class of 2018. After reading about, hearing
about, and visiting Aplus, I’m extremely excited to attend. I love its small size,
intellectual and alternative atmosphere, great student support, and
enthusiastic professors. I am sure it’s the college for me.

My life, thus far, has been preparing me for both higher education and life
outside of academia. I have never doubted that college would be for me, and
have been looking forward to the college experience for years. Now, however, I
feel truly that a Gap Year between high school and Aplus is what’s best for my
personal development.

From late June to early August this summer, I will live at home on the weekends
and spend my weeks living as a backcountry trail crew member. My crew will
restore trails on public lands in Northern Vermont with the Green Mountain
Club.  This is an exciting adventure of living in the woods for the first
time, working and living extremely collaboratively and learning about
stewardship of public lands.  This work will generate some money to
facilitate the next stages of my gap year.

Following my trail crew work, I will spend the fall on a leadership and outdoor
education course with Woodlands Outdoor School. I will spend 80 days with my
group navigating the terrain of the American Southwest while honing skills in
orienteering and various outdoor pursuits. I am excited for the physical
challenge of this experience and the personal development Woodlands will
provide.

After the New Year, I plan to travel to in Costa Rica with the language
immersion program, SICR. At SICR I will study Spanish and intern with a coffee
export business. In addition to learning about international business concepts,
I will get to see the life cycle of a product. I will be working on the coffee
farms, witnessing the processing of the beans, and be involved in the final
packaging and export of the finished product. This will nurture my interests in
sustainable business practices and cross-cultural exploration.

In another year, I expect to be a more mature and engaged member of the Aplus
community. I sincerely hope you will grant my deferral request and welcome me
as a member of the Class of 2019.

Sincerely,

                Bradford Williams

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