May 4, 2020 Should you defer first year of college? Dear Foley Prep Family, Good morning. If you’ve been keeping up with my newsletters and posts on Foley Prep’s Facebook.com/tutoring page, you’ll kno
May 4, 2020
Should you defer the first year of college?
Dear Foley Prep Family,
Good morning. If you’ve been keeping up with my newsletters and posts on Foley Prep’s Facebook.com/tutoring page, you’ll know that I’ve been urging everyone to make a backup plan for the fall. This pandemic is an incredible challenge for colleges, and will change almost everything about the college experience for the upcoming academic year. For now, most of what you hear from college officials about plans to reopen this fall should be considered benign posturing, the kind you would hear from a panicked CEO very worried about his or her business. So you have to do your best to discern good information from the fluff.
If you have a graduating senior, you do not want to miss this morning’s article in Inside Higher Ed, which does a great job detailing the possibilities and pitfalls of deferring the first year of college. Here are a few clips, but you should click over and read the whole thing – it’s the most thorough article you will read and a great starting point for a conversation with your son or daughter.
The predicament: do you pay full price for a very awkward college experience?
“What I have heard from these seniors is, ‘I’ve been sold on the college experience before I chose to attend this particular college. If I’m not going to have that experience for the first semester or even probably the whole year, then what’s the point of paying full tuition to sit at home and watch videos all day?’” he said.
The whole college experience will be different next year: not just attending online classes. No (allowable) parties, no sports, weird social distancing vibes in classrooms, dorms, and cafeterias (if school does open). Freshman year is a time of incredible growth and bonding, which will be very awkward this coming school year.
Warning: deferment policies can get in the way.
Colleges vary in their deferral policies: some have a policy of granting a year-long deferral of admission upon request almost automatically, while others review requests individually and approve them based on a consideration of their merit. Some institutions are more or less agnostic about the reasons students defer, as long as they don’t enroll as a degree-seeking student elsewhere, while more selective colleges say they’ll only grant deferrals if students can demonstrate a plan for a meaningful alternative work, travel, or volunteer experience, or if they have reasons related to a military service commitment or illness. More than half a dozen colleges contacted by Inside Higher Ed say they aren’t changing their deferral policies at this point. But they will be managing competing goals in the months ahead.
The article does a good job further detailing the risks you take with deferment, but also points out that colleges will have to loosen these rules in this unprecedented time.
Senior survey says: 10% are changing college plans this fall.
Admission professionals are trying to build their classes in unprecedented circumstances. A survey of more than 2,000 college-bound seniors released last week by higher education research and marketing company SimpsonScarborough found that one out of 10 students who planned to go to a residential four-year college before the pandemic have changed their plans. Nearly half of these students plan to attend a community college, and about a third plan to enroll in an online college.
My vote for students not planning to go to very selective and ultra selective colleges: community college online classes. You pay $6,000 for the year, saving $20-50K in tuition alone. Explore your options now. My fall classes at Middlesex County College fill up within days of open registration.
Gap year (no school) option. Foley says: do it only if you have a great plan.
Other evidence suggests that interest in gap years — typically a structured year between high school and college when a student pursues travel, volunteer service, paid work or an internship opportunity — is spiking. Ethan Knight, executive director of the Gap Year Association, said the association has seen a 65 percent increase in page views of its website.
Again, my vote for students not planning to go to very selective and ultra selective colleges: community college online classes. With unemployed workers flooding the market and options for travel extremely limited, a truly valuable experience will be very difficult to line up. Even in normal years, I think it’s very tough to rationalize slipping behind in your studies for a gap year. Delay experiential gratification and plan to do like I did: post-college backpacking around Europe with a super-cool internship at the Guggenheim in Venice (I got very lucky).
The case for a community college “visiting year.” Plus a warning about transfer and re-applying to selective collleges.
“Postpone your freshman (or sophomore) year at the university and enroll at your local community college, taking 30 credits of general education classes over the course of a year,” Matt Reed, vice president for learning at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, and a blogger for Inside Higher Ed, wrote in a recent post. “Then, in a year, when the whole virus situation has settled, return to the university and transfer those 30 credits there.”
Reed described this alternative option as a “visiting year.”
“‘But wait!’ you say. ‘What about the college experience?’” he wrote in his blog, “Confessions of a Community College Dean.” “If you’re sent home or have to stay home anyway, then the experience of taking classes online from home won’t be notably different. Except, of course, for the tens of thousands of dollars you stand to save.”
But enrolling full-time for a year at a community college is not compatible with deferral policies at many colleges that bar students from enrolling as degree-seeking students at other colleges during their deferral year, or that cap the number of credits they can earn elsewhere. For example, some colleges cap that number at six, others at eight or 12. Taking more credits than allowed could mean having to reapply as a transfer student, which can have implications for eligibility for institutional aid. Analyses by Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on student aid, have found that students who transfer tend to get thousands of dollars less in institutional grant aid.
Still, faced with the possibility of another online semester or year, Reed thinks that students who planned to attend relatively non-selective four-year colleges won’t be deterred if they have to turn down (rather than defer) an admission offer and reapply as a transfer if that means they can save money on the first year of college.
“I think a lot of schools are going to have to loosen up their policies on transferring credits because this is going to become very common,” Reed said.
This article is the best one I have read on the subject and, as I said, is an excellent starting point for a discussion with a graduating senior. It is very much worth your time, even if you do not have a graduating senior. It’s refreshing, as it has none of the usual posturing you find in education advice media. Here’s the link once again. I happen to know and like the folks at Inside Higher Ed, and once entertained an offer to write for them. Read the whole thing.
Was this helpful? Let me know what you think. It looks like a gorgeous day ahead here in New Jersey, I hope you’ll find time to enjoy it!
Doctoral Candidate & Professor of Mathematics
CEO of Foley Prep, Inc.
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