In ordinary times, Harvard University has made a practice of encouraging its admitted students to consider deferring admission and taking a gap year. Twenty percent of its first-year students have now taken them up on that offer—roughly three times the number that usually defer.
Harvard students aren’t the only ones doing so in a time of COVID-19. At MIT, 8 percent of students are deferring admissions—up from 1 percent in normal years. At Bates College, the number is 10 percent—nearly three times the usual rate. At Williams Colleges, roughly 25 students generally defer admission. This year, 90 did.
According to a recent survey, up to 40 percent of students nationwide are seriously considering taking a gap year. With unprecedented numbers signaling that they will take a year off, what exactly will they, or should they, do with that time?