Latest Analysis of 2020 Gap Year Numbers

Photo: Hathorn Hall, Bates College, Lewiston, ME

After record breaking applications at many colleges, admissions offices are now hunkered down making difficult decisions. Not only about who to admit, but how many to admit. With historical yield numbers no longer a guide to current year forecasts due to COVID, admissions officers will be forced to again guess about how many students will accept their offers. And how many will accept, but then request a Gap Year deferral.

At Gap Year Solutions, we had done some guess work of our own to judge the increase in Gap Year deferrals from 2019 to 2020. Based on our knowledge of increased traffic to Gap year websites, other information and anecdotal data coming out of colleges, we estimated that 3-4 times the number of high school graduates applying to college ended up deferring college instead of attending in fall 2020. With some recent data out from the Gap Year Research Consortium at Colorado College (GYRC), and some colleges publicly releasing their admissions numbers for the Class of 2024, we decided to take a closer look at the question of 2020 Gap Year students compared to 2019.

Here’s what we found. Using our original college survey data from 2019, augmented with publicly available information about target first year class size and 2019 Gap Year student numbers, we have baseline data on 55 colleges and universities that indicates 1.8% of admitted first years took a Gap Year in 2019 (college Class of 2023). 2020 Gap Year data (from a GYRC college survey plus publicly available data compiled by Gap Year Solutions) indicates that there was an average 3.4x increase across the 35 schools supplying data. This suggests that the number of high school graduates opting for a Gap Year increased to 6.1% in 2020. Admittedly these are estimates, but they are grounded in real data. We look forward to others publishing their analysis so we can compare and be more precise in these calculations.

Note: Assuming 1.8% of admitted college first years took a Gap Year in 2019 works out to approximately 40,000 students (the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 2.1 million high school graduates went on to college in 2019). The 6.1% estimate for 2020 equals roughly 130,000 students.

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