Georgetown students are asking administrators to delay the gap-year request deadline — and it’s unclear how it will impact students on the waitlist

Jillian Seitz, an 18-year-old from California, is an incoming freshmen at Georgetown University. After spending the end of high school online, she began to worry about starting college virtually.

“I didn’t really want to partake in that type of environment,” Seitz told Business Insider.

So Seitz reached out to her admissions counselor to ask about the process of applying for a gap year.

Her admissions counselor directed her to the online application for a gap year, which Seitz said indicated that a virtual environment in the fall is not acceptable reasoning for getting a gap year.

According to Seitz, the gap-year request form said something like “Why would you like to do this? What will you be doing with your time?” and it indicated that the request wouldn’t be accepted if you said “I don’t want to be in an online university.” Seitz said it appears that the form has now been edited to remove the language around deferring due to the coronavirus.

Business Insider was unable to confirm the prior language of the form, and Georgetown did not respond to requests for comment on the form being edited, or on how the deferral process could work for waitlisted students.

And Seitz isn’t alone. As universities grapple with how – or if – they can reopen in the fall, incoming freshmen want more flexibility – and in some cases they’re struggling to get it.

A group of incoming freshmen at Georgetown University has asked administrators to consider delaying the gap-year request deadline if the university continues with virtual learning in the fall.

On May 1, the class of 2024 group sent an open letter, asking that the deadline be postponed until after Georgetown makes its decision on what the fall will look like, as Moira Ritter and Liana Hardy first reported for The Hoya.

But the deadline to submit a deferral request was May 1 – the same day students had to confirm their offer of admission.

Seven of the students behind the letter told Business Insider that it has been received by administrators, and policy suggestions from the letter on the agenda for discussion by Georgetown University Student Association. One of those students, Bella Fassett, told both The Hoya and Business Insider that the letter was inspired by one from the Harvard University class of 2024. That letter asks that Harvard postpone the semester instead of conducting it online.

“A gap year request extension should be available to students including but not limited to those who come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, are international students, students with disabilities, undocumented students, immunocompromised students, and first-generation students,” the Georgetown letter says.

The Georgetown letter goes into greater detail, calling for 2020 commencement to be postponed, as well as requesting that on-campus housing be provided to “vulnerable student groups” and that staff and faculty continue to be paid.

As of May 13, the Georgetown letter had signatures from 161 students in the class of 2024.

In the absence of a response from Georgetown, Seitz said she chose not to apply for a gap year. She said that she understood why a school wouldn’t accept gap-year requests due to coronavirus, as they risk losing tuition money and may not have students paying for on-campus housing. But she she would’ve liked clearer communication on the topic from Georgetown.

“I was a little frustrated too, because to me it sounds like a totally understandable reason to take a gap year,” Seitz said.

But other students who applied for gap years have had their requests granted.

Where deferrals currently stand

Business Insider talked to several other incoming Georgetown students who successfully applied for gap years, and they didn’t specify the pandemic as their primary reason for doing so.

Daanyal Ebrahim, a 17-year-old from Hong Kong, deferred his admission to Georgetown by a year. After the coronavirus came to Hong Kong in February, he said he had a feeling it might impact the university’s plans. While he hadn’t previously planned on taking a gap year, the traveling situation – and the pandemic’s impact – made him reconsider.

“I don’t even know if any visas are going to be granted,” Ebrahim said. He added that it’s unclear what air travel will look like in August.

His school has been online since February, which he said he thinks “takes away from the real experience of what a school is like, what a college is like.” So, he’d rather pursue a gap year than potentially begin college online.

But figuring out how to request one posed a real challenge. Ebrahim said he had reached out to his admissions counselor for information on how to apply, but she never replied to him.

He was only able to find the application through a friend who had applied for one the year prior; they sent him the previous year’s application, and he swapped out 2019 for 2020 in the URL link.

Ultimately, his application was accepted, and he said he’s excited to take a gap year next year.

But 18-year-old Kevin Zhang, who also successfully deferred, received the application link from his admissions counselor.

He said he’d been planning on taking a gap year even before applying, but the pandemic actually made him reconsider that. However, he ultimately decided to apply for one – he plans on joining an AmeriCorps program.

Given the circumstances of the pandemic – and the possibility of more students choosing todefer=”defer”- “I was afraid they wouldn’t accept my deferral request.” But his request was also accepted.

In his application, Ebrahim said the pandemic was a factor in his decision to apply, but not the primary reason; he wants to narrow his field of studies and improve his language skills.

Waitlisted students are generally admitted after the gap-year request deadline

It’s unclear what options for waitlisted students will look like.

According to one student on the waitlist, as well as reporting from Admissions.Blog, waitlisted students will find out their admission status by May 15.

Schools like the University of Pennsylvania generally don’t allow waitlisted students to “defer”admission.

Casey Ferrante at The Hoya reported that more students could be let off the waitlist if fewer students choose to attend Georgetown.

“We did offer about 100 more acceptances than initially planned assuming there could be some impact on our typical yield of close to 50%,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Students on the Waiting List could have a greater chance than usual if the yield does decline and we will be keeping in touch with them throughout April.”

The seven students behind the letter said they had not heard anything about how deferral requests would work for waitlisted students. It’s unclear if an extended deferral deadline would apply to them.

“Schools which are notoriously insecure about their yield will admit more kids. And they’ll also offer longer waitlists,” Brian Taylor, managing director of private college consulting service Ivy Coach, told Benjamin L. Fu and Dohyun Kim at the Harvard Crimson. “This year, I anticipate that schools will go deeper into their waitlist than in prior years.”


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