The Pros and Cons of Deferring the 2020-2021 School Year

Melissa Presti
June 17, 2020

Congratulations! You’ve made it through another year of college or you’ve finally closed the chapter on high school. The end of this school year looked a lot different than any of us could have predicted. What’s in store for next year?

There’s a lot of uncertainty as college administrators make plans for the fall semester, and we’re seeing a lot of conflicting decisions. While some schools like Notre Dame are committed to reopening the campus with new guidelines for health & safety, we’re also seeing California State University make the call to keep all of their classes online and campuses closed - which affects over half a million students!

If you expect your college experience to be significantly altered, and you’re considering deferring in favor of a gap year, these are the possible side effects of your decision, good and bad. 

Let’s start with the reasons NOT to defer...


The “Cons” to Deferring Next School Year


1. Primetime for prime universities.

If you’re on the waiting list at a prestigious school, you might be getting a phone call soon. At least, that’s what this NYU professor predicts. If other students with acceptance letters in hand make the decision to defer the school year, it essentially opens the door for other students who may not have made it off the waiting list under normal circumstances. 

There might be an opportunity to upgrade your education if you stick around.


2. Travel restrictions.

We’re all too aware of the current travel limitations. There’s a huge possibility that if you choose to take a gap year now, the experience may not be as enriching as you would expect if you traveled pre-COVID or a year or two down the road.

And if you are able to travel, the experiences available when you get to your destination might be reduced. Tourist attractions, historical sites, and cultural events might be on hiatus. Plus, if you are hoping to work during your gap year to sustain your travels, there may not be enough jobs available because of the economic downturn.

3. Money is scarce.

The financial hardship caused by Coronavirus could mean that you no longer have the money to fund a gap year. We totally understand that travel is a luxury right now while the U.S. unemployment rate for 20-24yr olds is at a staggering 23% (if you’re aged 18-19 it jumps to 30%).

4. College extinction.

Your college may not exist in a year’s time! In the same video linked above, this NYU professor also predicts 2000 mid-range universities are at risk to go out of business. He’s referring to the estimated 4500 state schools (non-private) that may not survive if enrollment is not at full capacity for the 2020-2021 school year. 

Every student has their reasons for choosing their university, and sentimental value plays a huge part of the decision process. Don’t defer if it doesn’t feel right for you and your personal collegiate goals.

(The expensive Ivy League schools and the affordable community colleges at opposite ends of the spectrum are expected to do just fine, by the way.)

Time to ponder the benefits of deferring next school year...


The Pros to Deferring Next School Year


1. Save your hard-earned cash.

College isn’t cheap and student loan debt can be crushing. Let’s assume you don’t have the cost of tuition lying in your savings account. Instead of paying for a year of college, consider taking accredited classes this year from cheaper, alternative online schools that will still count toward your degree.

If you combine that with gap year travels, you will undoubtedly still spend less money than the cost of tuition. We’ll even show you how to do it. 


2. Wait for the right time. 

If your campus continues online classes or is operating under intensive health & safety restrictions, you’ll be paying full tuition for half a college experience. It’s time to reassess what you value about campus life and avoid a splintered educational experience.

Universities will likely continue adapting as the year develops. You could find yourself shuffling back and forth between in-person and online classes due to the changing state of the pandemic or how the university copes with new methods of delivering classes. fI you don’t want to leave it up to chance, you would be better off waiting until they have their act in order, or once COVID-19 is a distant memory.


3. Wait to see how higher education responds to this new world.

Kinda like how some of us are waiting to see what happens as people rush to end social distancing. Let’s just see how it all pans out first, ok? This time next year there could very well be a ton of COVID-induced innovations that have been developed to improve the landscape of higher education, how we communicate, and how the economy operates. What was worth studying pre-coronavirus might not be post coronavirus. There are so many ways in which the world could look different that would mean a different path forward would be more appropriate.


4. Become a better human.

All the reasons why gap years are awesome still hold true, even with restrictions that might be in place due to the pandemic. Giving yourself the opportunity to encounter cultural differences, work on personal development, and problem-solve your way through the unpredictable ups and downs of life on the road will have an immeasurable impact. Nobody goes out into the world on a gap year and comes back a worse person.

Travel will challenge your opinions, spark your curiosity, deepen your understanding of the world around you, and ultimately make you a better human being.


The pros and cons of deferring next school year are essentially a variety of realities. A choose-your-own-adventure for those who are taking a proactive approach to higher education and figuring out a solution that works the best for you. 

Just a heads up - if you definitely want to defer, the deadline is usually before fall tuition is due...which is soon!