How do I defer college for a year?

Every institution is different, but it typically involves placing a deposit down at your future school to secure your space AND formally requesting a deferral. Most schools want to see an essay or personal statement – known as a deferral letter or proposal – about what you plan to do with your year.

Why Colleges Allow Gap Year Deferrals:

Colleges recognize the value of a gap year in fostering personal growth, maturity, and a broader perspective, which can significantly benefit students academically and professionally. Here are a few reasons why colleges often allow deferrals for gap years:

  • Personal Development: A gap year provides students with opportunities for self-discovery, exploration of interests, and development of life skills such as independence, resilience, and cultural competence. 

  • Refreshed Academic Curiosity: Studies show that students who take a gap year start college with renewed motivation, clarity of purpose, and a deeper sense of engagement…as well as higher G.P.A.s!

  • Broadened Perspectives: Experiencing different cultures, communities, and perspectives during a gap year can broaden students’ horizons and foster a greater appreciation for diversity and global interconnectedness. 

  • Professional Development: Engaging in internships, volunteer work, or other career-related activities during a gap year can provide students with insight into their college major or career path. 

  • Health and Well-being: In some cases, students may need to take a gap year for personal reasons such as health concerns, family responsibilities, or mental well-being. 

By allowing gap year deferrals, colleges demonstrate their commitment to supporting students’ holistic development and recognizing the diverse pathways to academic success. Embracing the concept of a gap year reflects a broader shift in educational philosophy towards valuing experiential learning, personal growth, and lifelong exploration beyond the confines of traditional academic timelines.

“One’s college education is greatly enhanced by the maturity, experience, and perspective a student can bring post gap year.”

Fred Hargadon

former Dean of Admissions, Princeton University

What to know about deferring college in 2024

No, it’s not too late. The majority of gap year students make a final decision to take a gap year in the spring of senior year and get to planning opportunities at that time. Gap year programs still have plenty of space into the spring, but the sooner you start planning, the better!

Semester or Year? Most colleges will defer your admission for a full school year, not just a semester.

Financial Aid: You will need to reapply for FAFSA this coming year whereas private scholarships or merit-based aid may or may not defer along with your admission. Ask your college for details.

Does my college allow deferrals? If you are wondering what colleges think about deferring, you can reference the Gap Year Association’s list of deferral policies or call the admissions office to ask directly.

Your Choice or Theirs? Some colleges offer “deferred admission” or January/February admission to a small number of students each year. This offer makes you an automatic gap year student! If you are in this category, you probably won’t need to write a letter.

Deadlines: Pay attention to your future institution’s deadlines on requesting your deferral. The sooner the better since most colleges cap the number of deferral requests accepted and approve them on a first-come-first-serve basis.


What Colleges Look For in a Proposal:

When reviewing deferral requests, colleges typically consider the following factors:


  • Clarity and Coherence: Admissions officers look for well-structured, articulate letters that clearly convey the student’s intentions and plans for the gap year.
  • Relevance and Alignment: They assess whether the proposed gap year activities align with the student’s academic and personal goals and contribute to their overall growth and development.
  • Depth of Reflection: Colleges value letters that demonstrate thoughtful reflection on the reasons for taking a gap year and the potential impact of the proposed experiences.
  • Demonstrated Initiative: They appreciate candidates who have taken the initiative to plan meaningful and productive activities during their gap year, showcasing their motivation and drive.
  • Genuine Interest: Finally, colleges seek applicants who genuinely value the opportunity for personal and academic enrichment that a gap year can provide, rather than viewing it as a mere deferment of academic responsibilities.

How to write a deferral letter in 2024

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. You should be able to describe several personal goals and why you want to build your gap year around them.

Don’t Stress If You Don’t Have It All Planned Out: Your deferral letter isn’t binding – if your plans change, your college won’t hold it against you. They are most interested in your intentions for the year and making sure it will be well spent. Colleges know that plans could change and evolve this year based on the real-time situation.

Describe Your Planning Process: If you are working with a gap year counselor, attended a Gap Year Fair or have been planning your gap year for some while, you may want to mention that.

Request ASAP: All colleges that offer a gap year deferral have a firm deadline that usually falls between May-July. It behooves your this year to get your request in asap, since institutions may cap how many requests are granted.

If You Feel Lost, Ask for Help! Fill out our questionnaire and book a free exploratory call so we can go over your gap year ideas and help you brainstorm a great year!


“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.”

Peter Osgood

Admissions Director, University of Puget Sound

What does a deferral letter look like?


Here is an example of a great deferral letter written by an EnRoute student several years ago and edited for relevance this year.

DO NOT COPY this letter word-for-word – make it your own!

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 2028. After reading about, hearing about, and visitng 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 hope to travel to in Costa Rica with the language immersion program, SICR. At SICR I will study Spanish and intern with a conservation organization. In addition to learning about international conservation efforts, I will get to integrate with another culture. This will nurture my interests in sustainable practices and cross-cultural exploration. In the event I’m not able to travel internationally, I plan to take online Spanish courses and find a virtual intercambio partner to practice language with.

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 2029.


Jake Williams


“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.”

Jason Tesone

former Director of Admissions, Vassar College