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 is increasingly common, and generally looked quite favorably upon by colleges. It is not an overly complicated process, but it’s important to follow these few important steps as you navigate requesting a deferral to take a gap year!

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. There may be a page on the school’s website, or even mention of a gap year in your acceptance letter. If you can’t find any information, reach out to your admissions officer. 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 offer 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 for the 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 the Office of Undergraduate Admissions:

I am thrilled to have received admission to XXX. I have long-awaited the day to not merely attend, but to be a contributing member to your academic community. I cannot imagine a better place for me to expand my interests in politics and environmental science.

As I consider my goals for college, I have come to see that among them are ones that – addressed now – could make me an even 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 academic and career paths. I believe that with some of those goals accomplished before my freshman year that I will step onto your 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 20XX. 

I have done a lot of research on how to plan a successful gap year, and have begun to make headway in identifying my goals and locating reputable opportunities. For the fall I am pursuing a residential program in the U.S. where I will live with a group of students and have an internship in either business or politics. In the spring, I plan to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking country, with the hope of becoming fluent. I am looking at programs in Spain and Costa Rica where I would live with a local family, and volunteer with an NGO focused on the environment and sustainability.

As I am still researching my options, I may not have my plans confirmed until this summer, at which time I can submit to you my final details.

My hope is by creating a gap year that addresses a few areas of emotional, intellectual and even physical challenge that I will emerge 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.

Most sincerely,


You’ve got this! Learning how to articulate your goals and advocate for yourself with thoughtful consideration and proactive communication is yet another of the many benefits of taking an intentional gap year.

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

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