Should Your Student Defer Enrollment to College A Year Due To COVID?

The rise of the coronavirus and social distancing practices have greatly altered everyday life. Additionally, it’s throwing the future school year in jeopardy too. With so many unknowns, many colleges are asking big questions: Should they go ahead with in-person learning? Explore online classes as a safer alternative? Defer enrollment a year?

Regardless of method, most schools are creating alternate calendars so they are well prepared for whatever the situation is in the fall.

With so much indecision regarding academic calendars and other aspects, should students consider deferring college year for a year?

College student looking at her watch

Safety Concerns vs the Traditional College Experience

Most freshmen cannot imagine completing their first year in college online. And yet safety remains a huge concern. Even if their college decides to go ahead with in-person learning is it worth the risk to attend classes? This is a weighty question with no right answer at this moment.

As of now, more and more students are saying they prefer to take a gap year rather than take the risk. In-person learning doesn’t seem to be too safe.

What’s Wrong With Online Classes?

Although online learning is a safer alternative to traditional classrooms right now, there are several limitations.

Firstly, not all programs can be conducted completely through a virtual medium. One such example is the healthcare program. Personal interaction between students and patients is an integral part of the healthcare curriculum.

Even if the entire program can be conducted online, most students are reluctant to go this route for many reasons. High school seniors have been looking forward to their freshman year in college all year long. The extracurricular activities and social interaction with their peers is a big part of the whole college experience. Virtual classes do not have all the hallmarks of the traditional college experience. Not many students are ready to give all that up. They would rather sit this year out and start college next year.

Besides, colleges are still taking full tuition, even those that are considering virtual classes. That just makes the case against online learning even stronger. Is it really worth paying the full tuition to sit at home and listen to their classes through videos?

Potential Problems of Deferring College at This Time

The problem with deferring college at this time is the potential lack of opportunities available. With the whole world in different stages of lockdown, traveling anywhere is out of the question. Even travel to some states within the country may be restricted. All types of face to face experiences including volunteering opportunities are likely to be limited too. Deferring college just to sit at home and do nothing is just not worth it.

There are other problems that could arise. Students who had already accepted their offer before the pandemic will have to write to their college requesting that their admission be deferred. However, not all colleges grant gap-year deferrals. And with international student admissions dropping drastically, many more colleges may decide to withdraw this option. Before making any decision, you must speak to your college admissions office and find out their deferment policies.

Another potential problem area is related to the financial aid package. Different colleges handle this differently so you need to ask. Some colleges hold scholarships and financial aid for students who defer their college admission but not all do. Some may hold the merit scholarship but not the need-based aid. Instead, they recalculate need-based aid along with the FAFSA annually and only for the relevant academic year. This means you may have to reapply the following year without a guarantee that you will get it.

The Benefits of Deferring a Year

Taking a year off before going to college isn’t uncommon. Students choose this options for several different reasons. Some just want a break from the intense academic pressure leading up to college. Others take it to pursue a special project or hone their skills in an area of interest. Still others take it to travel, research, or volunteer in some capacity before continuing with their academic pursuits.

As we said, given the quarantine some of these traditional options may not be available for some time. Still, students can wait for the worst of the virus to pass while brushing up on skills or special interest. With the internet there are always online classes to take or freelance work to do. A deferred year isn’t necessarily an idle one.

Should Your Student Defer Enrollment A Year?

There is no one answer that is right for every student. Before deciding either way, it is advisable to speak to the concerned college. Ask them about their academic calendar and deferment policies.

Talk to your student about what they will do to make their enforced gap year more meaningful. Explore options and identify opportunities. It’s better to spend some time and be prepared for any scenario in the fall.

Should you defer enrollment? The decision is up to you and entirely dependent on personal preferences.

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