How does it look if a student chooses to defer admission?
It all depends on the specific circumstances – there’s no pat answer.
Some colleges and universities will discourage (or just plain won’t allow) a one-semester or one-quarter deferral. Orientation can be difficult in the middle of the year, on-campus housing or financial aid may no longer be available midyear, and enrolling midyear may prohibit your child from taking some yearlong required or prerequisite courses. Be aware of such limitations
It is not a problem, especially if the student will be using the time wisely.
What you do with your time off matters. Are you working to save up money? Are you spending your time off at your beach house? Are you doing community service here or abroad? If you defer your admissions, but use your time wisely, you will be just fine.
The simple answer is that it depends on why you have chosen to defer your admissions. If you are going abroad and doing work or exploration that helps to make you a more focused student or there is some other relevant well thought out rationale for doing so, the admissions office will respect you wishes to defer. In all my years of experience, I have never had a student defer that did not have a very valid reason for doing so. But, it is important that you express these reasons clearly to the admissions office.
You should also keep in mind that some school do not allow for a deferral or if they do, you may be putting a hard earned scholarship in jeopardy. If you think you might defer, it is best to ask what the process and pitfall are in doing so with each institution to which you apply. The answer will vary and so you strategy of when and how to apply should follow each schools policy.
If a student can articulate why they are putting off going to college, if they have a plan for how they will spend the year –it need not be elaborate, a job that allows the student to earn needed funds or simply allows time to get a better sense of why they are going, of what they want to study, is just fine–then deferring is no problem. Indeed, it can actually be a plus, evidence of a thoughtful approach to one’s education and not simply a case of going to college because it is the expected next step. However, if there is no plan in place, it may be more problematic, viewed as lack of focus or an aimlessness that does not necessarily bode well for future college success. Ultimately, it is OK, but know why you are doing it and be able to say so.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
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