Yes. We want to do everything possible to help the students we enroll make the most of their opportunities, avoiding the much reported "burnout" phenomenon that can keep them from reaching their full potential. Our overall graduation rate of 98%, among the highest in the nation, is perhaps due in part to the fact that so many students take time off, before or during college. The Admissions Committee encourages admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a special project or activity, work, or spend time in another meaningful way—provided they do not enroll in a degree-granting program at another college.
Deferrals for two-year military or religious service are also granted. Each year, between 90 and 130 students defer their matriculation to the College, and they report their experiences to be uniformly positive. After graduation, large numbers of Harvard students take time off before beginning work or graduate school. See more about taking time off.
For the 2020-2021 academic year:
Harvard has maintained a flexible deferral policy. Ordinarily, we expect that students who wish to defer admission will inform us as soon as possible and in any event before the end of June. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are allowing for more flexibility this year and ask that students let us know if they wish to defer (log in with your applicant portal credentials) on or before July 24, 2020.
This additional flexibility will enable our students to act on the best and most updated information possible to choose a path that is right for them. We want our students to enroll in the fall voluntarily and eager to work with us as partners.
It is always possible that we will have too many students seeking to matriculate at the same time, and we may not be able to house everyone on campus in the traditional First-Year housing. In the event there is excess demand for housing in academic year 21–22 or thereafter, Harvard will establish and share a process by which students may apply for undergraduate residential housing. Deferred-enrollment First-Year students who do not obtain space in a Harvard residence may be granted an exception to our requirement that First-Year students must live on campus, and such students will receive financial aid for room and board if they would ordinarily be eligible for such aid.
If you wish to reverse your decision to defer, please let us know your final decision as soon as possible, but in any event no later than July 24, 2020 by completing this form (log in with your applicant portal credentials) with the details of your decision. This form will also be accessible via the Admitted Students Website.