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As the fall approaches, students who've been accepted to college or are considering applying during rolling admissions, but also considering a gap year, should follow these guidelines.

Choosing to defer before you apply

If you haven’t applied to college yet, but know that you're interested in pursuing a gap year, you should clearly note that on your application. You can do this by explaining why you want to take a gap year and how you plan to spend your time in the essay or personal statement part of your application.

Choosing to defer after being offered admission

If you decide to defer after being admitted to college, you will need to contact the university and inquire about their deferment practices. At some universities, decisions are made on a

case-by-case basis. At others, the deferral may be granted upon request without additional information. If the college requires detailed information about your gap year, be prepared to provide it. If you’re considering a gap year that has some relevant bearing on your intended course of study, all the better. Also, be sure to indicate that when you make your request.

Things to consider when deferring admission

Remember that deferring admission may mean several things at different universities. You will lose your housing, you could lose your scholarships if they cannot be deferred until you begin attending that school, and you may have to reapply for admission again after your gap year. Talk to the college and ask them about their deferral policies. The American Gap Year Association surveyed some colleges about their policies and their responses will help you see how different colleges handle deferrals.

What if the university denies your request?

If the college denies your request to defer, you have two options. You can enter college in the fall and opt to study abroad during your four-year college experience. Or you can take the year off to travel with a program and reapply the following year. Again, the opportunity and benefits a gap year presents should always be considered.

If you request a deferment, you will lose your spot in the upcoming class

Once you request the deferment, and the college approves your request, you cannot change your mind when the school year approaches. Colleges release your spot to wait-listed students. You will be locked into your decision.

Follow these 5 steps when requesting to take a gap year

Step 1: Do your research and determine which gap year is best for you

Step 2: Contact the admissions department and notify them you are interested in taking a gap year

Step 3: Explain your reasons for taking a gap year and any information related to it that might coincide with future study

Step 4: Contact the financial aid office to determine whether or not your scholarships and merit aid will still be available when you enter college a year later

Step 5: Secure approval from the college before beginning your gap year