Deferral Guide

EF Gap student Camille sitting on a swing
College deferral: what it is, why you should do it, and how we can make it happen together

Completing the college deferral process is an integral part of many students’ gap journey. Deferring enrollment gives you peace of mind to be fully present on your EF Gap program while feeling secure in knowing where you’re headed after your international adventures.

Writing the perfect deferral letter

What are colleges saying?

Deferring your college acceptance should not deter the school of your choice; in fact, some of the top colleges in the country specifically encourage students to take a gap year because they know these programs help students reach their full potential. For example, the prestigious Harvard University’s Gap Policy page reads:

“We want to do everything possible to help the students we enroll make the most of their opportunities, avoiding the much reported ‘burnout’ phenomenon that can keep them from reaching their full potential. Our overall graduation rate of 98% is perhaps due in part to the fact that so many students take time off, before or during college. We encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way.”

And that’s just one of the renowned institutions that EF Gap Year alumni have gone on to attend. Others have charted successful academic careers all around the country at colleges such as the University of Miami, New York University, University of North Carolina, University of Oregon, and many more.**

The 6 Steps of the College Deferral Process


Apply to colleges

Before you can defer, you need to get accepted! Complete the application process for the colleges or universities of your choice and let the decisions roll in as you begin the next step of the college deferral process.


Plan your gap

It’s important to take time to reflect as you consider your interests and research your options during this step of the college deferral process. Familiarize yourself with our modular Gap Year, Semester, and Short-Term programs with the help of your expert Gap Year Consultant, who will work with you and your family one-on-one to determine the perfect program for you.


Choose your college

Now is the time to commit to your school of choice, celebrate your accomplishments, and anticipate the next chapter.


Submit your college deposit

Reserve a spot at your school of choice by submitting a deposit. While deposits are not legally binding, colleges typically view them as a firm commitment. Additionally, deposits are usually nonrefundable, meaning that if you change your mind about which school you’d like to attend after your EF Gap experience, there’s a good chance you won’t get your deposit back.


Send deferral documents to your school

Once your deposit has been submitted, you’ll need to officially request your deferral. While these processes vary depending on the school, colleges typically require students to fill out a “Request to Defer” form, which is often located within your school’s admitted students’ portal.

You’ll also need to write a formal deferral letter detailing goals and plans for your gap year. This should be sent between April and mid-June for the admissions committee. We’ll dive deeper into what this letter looks like in a moment.


Receive approval for your EF Gap Year or Semester

Congratulations! Your request to defer was approved and you’re ready to go on the gap year of your dreams, knowing you have a spot at school waiting for you the following spring or fall.

Does every college let students defer enrollment for a semester or year?

While the exact deadline will vary from college to college—with some schools evaluating gap year requests on a rolling basis—many deferral deadlines fall between May and July.

A good piece of advice for this process? The sooner you can let your school know, the better. In fact, it will benefit you both: you’ll have more time to prepare for your gap year, and your school will have more time to process your request.

Who do I contact at my college about deferring?

Your admissions officer at your college is the best resource for questions about deferring. You may need to submit a letter directly to them, or they can point you in the right direction.

What supporting documents do I need to show my college?

Many colleges require students to write a letter of intent or fill out a short application to let the college know what they are planning to do during their gap year.

Does my financial aid and scholarship package carry over?

Again, this varies from school to school, but most colleges allow you to carry over merit scholarship offers. For federal financial aid, you will usually have to fill out the FAFSA again the following year, but if your family’s situation remains similar to when you first filed, then so should your financial aid package.

Can I apply to other schools during my gap year?

Colleges see deferral as a firm commitment; this means that you are not allowed to apply to other colleges during your gap year if you have deferred enrollment. If you are unsure where you want to go to college, instead of deferring enrollment, you can use your EF Gap Year or Semester to explore your college options and work on your applications.

What is EF Gap Year's deferral guarantee?

Our deferral guarantee allows you to book without worry—meaning that you can book and start planning your gap year ahead of time, knowing that we will support your college’s decision either way. If your deferral request is rejected, you will have the option to cancel your gap year and receive a refund. Be sure to get in touch with your Gap Year Consultant to discuss the deferral guarantee in more depth.

How to write a deferral letter
Draft the perfect college deferral letter using our (free!) template

As a crucial component of the process, your college deferral letter should address what you plan to do on your EF Gap Year program, when you would like to defer your admission to, where you will travel, how the experience will help you to achieve your personal goals, and most importantly, how it will make you an even stronger student at that school.

Just fill out the short form below to unlock your sample college deferral letter and get in touch with your dedicated EF Gap Year Consultant who’s here to help make your gap dreams a reality.

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**EF Gap Year is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with these institutions. All listed names are the registered trademarks of their original owners. The use of any institution name or trademark is for reference purposes only and does not imply any association with the trademark holder.