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It means that you tell a college or institution that you will be attending later and will be taking the next couple months to do something, whether it's to work or to take a partial gap year. So you're not going to be attending their school immediately, but they do save your spot. What they mean by their reply is that they can only defer you until next fall semester at most because you do technically take up a spot on their rolls, but you aren't paying tuition or anything.
What’s the Difference Between Being Deferred and Waitlisted?The difference between the wait list and a deferral is small, but still important to be aware of in case you ever wind up with a letter from admissions with one of those two answers. So here’s what sets the waiting list apart from the deferral pile:
The WaitlistIf you are informed by an institution that you’ve been placed on the waitlist, it means that you qualify for admission and that they like you, but that other applicants are more of a priority. It’s not the best news you can hear from the college you want to go to, but it means that there’s certainly a chance you might just wind up getting in. Here’s a sports analogy; it basically means you’re a backup player. The coach has his favorite starters, but still sees value in his bench warmers. If there are injuries and a starter has to sit out for the rest of the season, you’re in!
For a college, the waitlist is insurance so that if accepted students enroll elsewhere, they can pull other qualified people up and avoid big holes in their upcoming school year’s class. If you’re put on the waitlist at your number one school, it never hurts to remind the admissions office of your interest and to update them on any new accomplishments.
A DeferralThere are different types of deferrals, one on the student’s behalf and the other on the institution’s. We’re talking about the deferral from an institution today, but just so you know, a student who is accepted to a college can often defer enrollment for a certain number of years for various reasons–travel, family, personal issues, etc.
Receiving a deferral from an institution means that admissions hasn’t made any decision about you, except that they haven’t outright denied your acceptance. Deferrals from acceptance are mostly relevant to students who applied to a college through Early Action or Early Decision. If you weren’t denied or accepted, your application has been deferred into the regular admissions group and will then compete with those applications. The silver lining on this cloud is that if you were deferred from Early Action or Early Admission and then you are admitted, you are no longer obligated to attend if you are accepted. If you are deferred as a regular admissions applicant, it generally means the school wants more information about you before making a final admissions decision. They might ask for your senior year grades, more test scores, letters of recommendation, etc. If they request any information, do your best to get it in as soon as possible as it will speed up the decision process.
If your child is hesitating to pack up and head off to college right away, it's not unusual. For a variety of reasons, many students take a break for a year (sometimes called a "gap year") before enrolling because they aren't ready to go straight from high school to college. Some study abroad for a year after high school, some travel, some get jobs and work, and others pursue art, a sport, or another skill or full-time hobby. Still others choose to use this time to take care of a health problem or to work on personal or family problems.
Have them apply anyway, even if a gap year is likelyIf your child plans to take a year off before hitting the books, encourage him or her to apply to colleges during senior year, rather than waiting until their year off to do so. It's easier to get application materials together during high school and make the deadlines. In addition, working from home is more reliable than counting on the local mail service when your child is abroad or trekking through some remote jungle. Most importantly, it facilitates last-minute enrollment in the event of a change of heart.
If your child is accepted to a school and then decides to defer admission, the reasons for doing so must be submitted in writing to the dean of admission, along with a deposit. All of this must be completed before the published deadline to reserve a place in the following year's freshman class.
Not all schools will approve a deferred admission, however. And they vary in their policies about what is an appropriate reason to grant such a request.
Use the gap year to get credit where credit is dueIf your child has been granted a deferred admission and plans to work or take some other sort of classes, check into whether or not the college will accept credits for any academic programs completed during the year off. Some colleges won't allow a student to enroll in another degree-granting program and won't give college credit for any work completed during the deferral. In this case, if your child does enroll elsewhere during the year off, he or she might need to reapply later as a transfer student.
Watch the timing if you defer admissionSome 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.
Will a deferred admission have financial consequences?Check with the financial aid office and find out what impact, if any, taking a year off will have. If your child has been offered financial assistance, it may not be guaranteed the next year. Applications may need to be updated and any money your child earns during the year off may affect financial aid eligibility.
A gap year passes quickly, so make the most of itA big question to consider is what to do with a year off. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities for high school students, ranging from the AFS (American Field Studies) Intercultural Programs, to Habitat for Humanity, to serving as an English tutor abroad. Some activities and programs charge tuition, and a few come with a stipend. A program may have financial aid available or might offer room and board as payment. What they all have in common is the opportunity for your child to learn and mature.
Your child's year off may not be filled with gap-year travel, community service, or global cultural experiences, but even long hours toiling at a minimum wage job can be a great lesson from the "School of Life" — and it might be just the thing to motivate a lackluster student to return to the classroom.