Should this year's high school juniors plan for applying DURING a gap year?

Pity this year’s high school juniors. No chance to take an SAT/ACT, messed up junior year, and who knows if they’ll be able to be in school senior year. But most importantly, if a lot of this year’s accepted seniors defer (and who could blame them, since there’s no guarantee that schools will be able to open in September), the competitive admission schools will just go to their wait lists. So this year’s seniors should do very well with getting in off the wait lists. But that means that next year’s classes at highly competitive schools will already be partially filled with students who deferred a year, making the application process for this year’s high school juniors INSANELY competitive, and for those who would have done well on an SAT/ACT, no chance to take one. I’m wondering if it would be better for those students to plan for a gap year, and apply at the beginning of their gap year, instead of applying this coming fall, which will likely be the most competitive year in the history of college applications. They could get their applications ready in their senior years (recommendations, standardized tests, etc.), plan a gap year, and then send the applications off the summer after they are graduated from high school. It’s likely to be a far less competitive year than the application cycle that is about to start.

This seems like a lot of speculation for data that doesn’t exist.

I don’t think schools are going to let a lot of people defer this year and hold spots. They need to fill their classes and keep their budgets.

For those highly competitive schools that allow deferral, they can just fill from their wait lists. But then the next year’s class is already partially filled, before this year’s juniors even apply.

What’s your plan for the Gap year? With 22 million people on unemployment (and more coming from the white collar college group shortly), a gap year may look like a loafing year to a school adm. Gap years can be quite long. I took a “gap year” in 1976 to help my father in his business - never went back till 1985. Things happen.

All the schools have to do is decline accepting deferral requests. I assume that they all have maximum amounts that they will accept. I see no reason to increase that amount.

I don’t understand the mentality that the pandemic is going to last forever. It isn’t.

Both College Board and ACT have made clear that they will offer MANY opportunities to make up the tests, many colleges have made it clear that they will go test optional for at least the coming app cycle, and college is going to start again, regardless of whether it’s online or IRL.

I personally think that many students are going to be at a huge disadvantage by taking a gap year. It’s going to make the competition pretty ferocious.

Feel worse for this year’s graduating seniors who until literally a month or so ago had amazing opportunities and are now graduating into a world of uncertainty.

I am a parent of a HS Junior who has not had the opportunity to take the SAT/ACT yet (both cancelled Mar/April and now Jun). While I initially was upset I have shifted my mindset to be concerned with those things that I have control over. I know many many graduating HS Seniors and so far none who are planning to go to college that are considering taking gap years at this point. Obviously, that may change but the overwhelming sentiment has been…“Well, what the heck else would I be doing if I did take a gap year?” I don’t think years Juniors need your pity.

If colleges allow deferred admission, as long as the entrant notifies them by the required date, the college cannot change the rules midstream, saying, "Yes, we said you could take a gap year, but too many people took this option, and now we're telling you that you cannot, even though you informed us by the deadline - and BTW, you might have to pay 55K to sit at home and take your classes online for some or all of this year."  I don't think that parents and students would take that, paying so much for an online, at home experience.  If my child were a senior, I'd definitely tell them to take the gap year option, and make alternate plans for this coming year.
What might an accepted student do for a gap year this year?  There is a worldwide health emergency going on that largely does not affect healthy 18 year olds who don't have risk factors.  Every single aspect of healthcare institutions,  nursing homes, our food supply chain, education (assuming that the schools are able to open at all), the funeral industry, practically ANY job that puts people in contact with one another that is considered essential,  ALL of these jobs will need workers who are at low risk, so that workers at high risk can remain isolated.  So rather than a gap year going to an exotic locale to polish up their high school foreign language, how about a gap year working the bottom rung in any healthcare related field that requires no or minimal training, or the bottom rung in the legal aid office?  The possibilities are endless.  And the time they spend doing that work might spark an interest that turns into their career focus.
But this still doesn't change the fact that this year's high school juniors are likely to be facing the most competitive admission year there ever was, because of the expected huge number of deferrals.  So, does it make sense for them to plan for a gap year (hopefully by then the traditional options will have opened up, including international travel), and wait to apply until the summer right after they are graduated from high school?

Planning for a gap year (in this environment)looks very much like applying as a hs senior. Just apply as a senior, this Fall, and see where the chips land. Then decide if a gap year is the right choice. What would someone have to lose by applying this year?
I personally think the hs juniors are in a good position for college admission and it is the hs seniors I feel very sorry for. Ambitious students aren’t going to just ‘sit back’ because the world changed (hopefully only temporarily). They are going to drive forward head-on into the new world.

Am I just totally off base here? Some 20-25% of accepted students are reportedly seriously considering gap years, as opposed to the usual 5%. The competitive colleges are not increasing their class size for the class that would enter in Fall 2021 (this year’s high school juniors). That means that the available seats for applicants to the class entering in Fall 2021 would be reduced by a little over 15-20%, making it an incredibly competitive year. And considering that many students who are more qualified than God don’t get into ANY highly competitive schools unless they have a particular “hook”, it seems unwise to apply this year, if other options exist. If a student were to apply for admission to the class entering in Fall 2021, and be rejected everywhere they wanted to go, and then decide to take a gap year and reapply to those same schools, they would be seen by those schools as damaged goods, and have very little chance of admission to those schools, applying the second time around. But if they simply applied for Fall 2022, and planned for a meaningful gap year (and yes, it is VERY possible to plan for a meaningful gap year even in the time of coronavirus, especially when speaking of summer 2021-summer 2022), it seems to me that they would have a much better chance of admission to a top school, what with only the usual 5% having deferred, if even that many.

“Take a Gap Year” – what exactly are you even talking about?? There is no traveling if COVID isn’t under control. There are no internships. There are no jobs. What do you think these tens of thousands of kids are going to be doing on their “gap year”?

There is just WAY too much we don’t know at this point to draw any hard conclusions about what this means for current juniors applying to college next fall.

Personally I think this benefits them. Please remember, everyone is in the same boat!! Everyone has not been able to take the SAT – either ever, or the number of times they want. It will be fine.

The ones I would be concerned for are the families who’ve lost their jobs and now suddenly cannot afford college at all, at a time when the colleges are struggling and so almost certainly doing things like cutting back on merit aid and financial aid. Worry about those kids.

You might wish to consider expanding your college applications regionally to different parts of the US or even Canada or the UK to preserve the most options of attending a class in person.

Very few schools offer ‘automatic’ deferrals for admitted students who want to take a gap year. I’m pretty sure that the vast majority require the student to apply and be approved. So, colleges have a lot of control over whether or not the high school class of 2020 will be taking an en masse gap year. I think that a lot of parents of current HS Seniors are probably thinking about a gap year (the seniors, probably not so much), but realistically, I doubt that’ll happen using college/university formal deferrals. For those who take a gap year by way of simply not enrolling, and rolling the dice again on a fresh application/admission cycle, I think it’s going to be a gamble.

Students frequently can’t defer merit awards. A lot of merit-based scholarships have requirements that preclude students who take a gap year. There’s a growing expectation that pools of need-based and merit aid may get stretched very thin, at least through what already is or may become a deep recession.

With regard to what students could do during a gap year-- I don’t think that there is nearly enough data about Covid-19, nor accurate enough reporting (due to constraints in testing & reporting, complete data on infection rate and morbidity, data on transmission life and rate, or additional risk factors) to, with any real confidence, suggest that a healthy 18 year old with no known underlying conditions, are at little to no risk. We certainly know that they can transmit it, even without symptoms.

I’m not sure that I believe that current HS Juniors (rising seniors) are going to, in any way, be disadvantaged in the college admissions process. First, plenty of current Juniors will have already taken the SAT/ACT, at least once. Those who haven’t can benefit from expanded ‘Test Optional’ policies, or take it later. I certainly don’t think that HS Class of 2020 applicants are going to get a default advantage over HS Class of 2021. And, I don’t think that there will be enough of HS Class of 2020 in the freshman admit application class to appreciably burden the pool.

What I do think is that State Universities are going to see a general uptick in applications from students who might have otherwise applied to OOS and private universities.

@parentologist I looked up a few deferral policies online. They all had criteria to allow for a deferral. You can’t just say that you want one. The threat of classes being online wouldn’t satisfy any of them. Ohio State explicitly had a COVID-19 item. It was for hardships caused by it. That would most likely be significant loss of income. Most of not all also required you to apply by May 1st.

Yes the can. Most are written so vague and leave the determination of acceptable reasons up to the school. What are you going to do if they do “change”? Sue them? Now you are on a multi year gap year.

It’s all speculation and hypotheticals.


It would appear so.

Road to College survey indicated 36% of srniors were considering gap year. One Ivy I will not identify has had more than 35% of the incoming class inquire about gap.

International students probably will have to gap, or start in the spring at the very least, since it is unlikely this year’s visas could get processed in time for this fall. Unlike American high school seniors, they’re in worse of a holding pattern, and are not going to get a choice. So right there we could see increased competition for post-fall-2020 starts. If I had a high school senior, I would encourage them to start in their college of affordable choice in the fall. It isn’t going to get any less competitive in future years.

Even for a high school junior, my concern would be that, once you graduate high school, you’re “out of sight, out of mind” for guidance departments and teacher recommendations, etc. Gap years can be great experiences if you fill them with quality activities, but in the economy we’re going to be muddling through, there’s almost certainly going to be fewer irreplaceable opportunities.

So the Road to College survey is only based on answers from about 500 families from a “Paying for College” Facebook group. Any junior in AP Stat would know that this isn’t a reliable data set.

The figure of >20% of students taking a gap year is not just regulated to this year. From 2017: “According to the AGA, a nonprofit that accredits gap year programs, between 30,000 and 40,000 students are taking time off for a semester or more. The group says that figure is up 23 percent.”
“Now, more than 35 percent of high school students are thinking of taking a gap year, according to a recent survey by TD Ameritrade.”

All your data appears either unreliable or fake.