Gap Year Deferrals Back to Pre-COVID Levels

Gap Year Deferral Data Shows Important Trend.

Awareness of Gap Years among high school students, families and counselors – and the public at large – has skyrocketed over the last couple of years. The COVID pandemic (here and here), the high cost of college, declining admissions rates at selective schools and continuing media coverage have combined to increase the willingness of students to consider the Gap Year option.

However, this increased awareness has not yet translated into growth of the percentage of students taking a year off before college. After a huge spike in Gap Year deferrals during the early part of COVID-19 to avoid online learning and campus lockdowns, Gap Year numbers appear to have settled back to their pre-COVID levels.

To understand the Gap Year deferral data, Gap Year Solutions recently reached out to colleges which previously provided data on the number of students who took a Gap Year in the fall of 2020 (Class of 2024). Twelve of these schools responded with new data, for the class starting in the fall of 2021 (Class of 2025). These responses, when put together with our previous data set on Gap Year deferrals, allow us to draw some good conclusions about the trend in deferrals. The main thing that jumps out is that the percentage of Gap Year deferrals looks to have fallen sharply from fall 2020 to fall 2021, in fact back to pre-COVID levels.

Our previous research put the number of Gap Year deferrals at non-Ivy League schools at 1.9%. We exclude Ivies – which includes Stanford for this analysis – because these schools have traditionally had a much higher number of Gap Year students – in a normal year about 3.8%, which is double the rest of the schools. As the accompanying chart shows, our analysis has the non-Ivy set of schools returning to the same 1.9% of students deferring for a Gap Year as before COVID.

We are planning to update this Gap Year deferral data annually. Ideally, this will include the same set of schools each year for more accurate year over year comparisons. We would love to hear from readers with different numbers or general comments on this trend.

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