empty college classroom

by Mary Sue Youn, former admissions officer at Barnard College

In July, I wrote in a blog post about a question we get often from current senior families:

“What will happen if a higher percentage of the class of 2020 takes a gap year? Won’t that mean that there will be fewer spots for the class of 2021?”

I laid out the myths in that reasoning and ultimately decided that the answer to that question is no.

Recently Harvard reported 20 percent fewer students in this year’s freshman class, and the impact of gap year deferrals gained more momentum. But as with many enrollment trends, Harvard is the exception, not the rule. They announced early last spring that they would be fully remote this fall, and encouraged freshmen to pursue a gap year if they preferred that to online learning. It’s likely that their early response and encouragement meant that more students took this option than students enrolling at other institutions.

Just this week the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center published the initial results of its first survey of enrollment leaders this fall, and the news supports that assessment. Nationally student enrollment declined only 2.5 percent, far less than the 20-40 percent drops projected last spring. At a recent college counselor conference hosted by Tufts, Boston University, and Northeastern, all three were adamant that changes in deferral requests had been minimal and would not impact future admission chances. They went so far as to say that they will make any adjustments needed to make sure that there will be no impact to the class of 2021.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center enrollment survey’s next round of results will be released on October 15, and we’ll be closely watching these numbers to see if we feel differently about the potential impact to the class of 2021. But for now, our answer to the question of whether or not there will be fewer spots available to this year’s graduating class is still no. In the meantime, we encourage seniors to focus on what they can control – performing well in school, staying organized, writing essays, and putting forth their very best application for admissions consideration.

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Written by Mary Sue Youn
Mary Sue Youn is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Prior to joining College Coach, Mary Sue was a senior admissions officer at Barnard College and Whittier College. Visit our website to learn more about Mary Sue Youn.