How to Write a College Deferral Letter, Using an Oreo Cookie

If you have been accepted into college and have also decided to take a gap year (congratulations!), among your first steps is to ask your college if you can postpone your attendance for a year: you will request a deferral, or to defer your admission.

Requesting a deferral to take a gap year during COVID-19 is a timely and relevant topic, but not an overly complicated one. Take a look:

1. Start by checking with your chosen college: Find out if your college supports deferments for gap years, and if so what the process is. If it does, you will most likely need to write a letter with your request and proposed gap year plan. Contact your admissions officer if you have any questions about how to best submit your request, and/ or if you have been offered financial or merit aid. Students are often nervous to take this step – don’t be! You will not jeopardize your offers by asking.

2. Spend time considering J2Guides’ starting point, #whatisyourwhy? Your admitted school will want to read about your intentional gap year. Start by creating two lists: 1.) your reasons for wanting to take a gap year (there are no wrong answers) and 2.) your wish list of everything that you would do on a gap year (do this without limits). See if a few goals on your wish list really stand out, and focus on those to start (more-is-not-more on a gap year, or in your deferral letter.)

*Read more about the J2Guides’ approach of #whatisyourwhy in our blog: 7 Tips for Planning a Gap Year During COVID-19.

3. Draft a letter to your school: Try using the Oreo cookie approach, a trusty tool for giving constructive feedback that we use in experiential education. Here’s how it works. The first layer expresses your excitement about attending the school; the middle filling shares your vision – your intention – for a gap year; your third layer confirms your commitment to the college. See? The outer layers provide genuine and enthusiastic affirmations of your desire to attend the institution. In between is the middle layer, which respectfully proposes your goals and growth on a gap year. With this approach, your gap year doesn’t read as a lack of interest in the school, but rather as a beneficial preparation for it. Always be honest, humble and authentic as you share what you are aiming to move towards, and not away from.

4. Here is a sample deferral letter, Oreo-style.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am truly thrilled to have been invited to be a member of your institution. I have long-awaited the day to not merely attend, but to be a contributing member to your mission and community. I cannot imagine a better place for me to expand my interests in politics and environmental science.

As I consider my goals I have come to see that among them are ones that – addressed now – could make me a better college student: I want to develop my independence, to be exposed to a wide variety of perspectives and people, and to gain hands-on experience in possible college and career paths. I believe that with some of those goals accomplished before my freshman year that I will step onto campus a more curious and confident student, and as such I am writing to request to defer my admission to begin in the fall of 2021. 

I know it’s critical to have a gap year plan with goals, and have come up with a rough outline. For the fall I am researching an opportunity in the U.S. where I can live with a group of students and have an internship in either business or politics. In the spring, I’d like to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment, with the hope of becoming fluent. I hope to live with a local family, and volunteer with an NGO focused on the environment and sustainability.

With the current uncertainty in gap year programs and travel, I may not have my plans confirmed until this summer, at which time I can submit my final details.

My expectation is that by creating a gap year that addresses a few areas of emotional, intellectual and even physical challenge that I will emerge from my gap year a more well-rounded and resilient adult, and student, who will be a model member of your institution.

I sincerely hope that you will consider my request for deferral, and I look forward to your reply.

This step of defining your gap year goals and writing your deferral letter is yet another of many benefits of taking a gap year: learning how to articulate your goals and advocate for yourself with thoughtful consideration and proactive communication.

Have another question? You are not alone, and there are many ways to learn more and connect with us. Visit our COVID-19 Resources page. Join us for Webinar Wednesday. Follow us on social media. Or schedule a call with Jane or Jason.

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