College updates policy to allow Class of 2024 to postpone enrollment one year

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 7/1/20 6:31pm

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by Darren Gu / The Dartmouth

Updated July 1, 2020 at 8:40 p.m.

Dartmouth will allow students in the Class of 2024 to request a one-year postponement of their enrollment, dean of admissions and financial aid Lee Coffin wrote in an email to the Class of 2024 on Wednesday evening. The announcement marks a change from Coffin’s previous email to the class on Monday, which stated that students who did not wish to enroll this upcoming year would be advised to cancel their enrollment and reapply next year. 

The College’s modified policy expands the Class of 2024’s options to include “postponement” of enrollment for one academic year or, for students who choose to enroll for the upcoming year, the option to take “a personal leave for a specific term or terms, as needed,” Coffin wrote. Students also retain the option to enroll for the full academic year or cancel their plans to enroll at the College.     

Requests for postponement or cancellation of enrollment should be sent to the admissions office and will be accepted until July 10, Coffin wrote. 

As announced in a campus-wide email on Monday, the Class of 2024 will receive priority as a cohort for on-campus enrollment in the upcoming fall and spring terms. They will be required to enroll remotely for the winter term. 

On Monday, Coffin originally wrote to the Class of 2024 that Dartmouth “[expects] enrolling students to matriculate in September as planned, either on-campus or remotely.” Any students who do not wish to enroll in the upcoming fall, winter and spring terms are “advised to cancel their enrollment by July 10 and reapply for admission to next year’s class,” Coffin added. 

International students who are unable to obtain visas or face other travel restrictions “may begin the fall term remotely and join the class in Hanover as soon as possible,” Coffin wrote on Monday. 

In his follow-up email on Wednesday evening, Coffin wrote that while the College expects members of the Class of 2024 to matriculate in September, many have “raised questions” about their enrollment options following his first email. Consequently, Coffin wrote, the College has updated its enrollment options for the Class of 2024. 

Monday’s original announcement arrived at the heels of previous statements from Coffin that seemed to leave the possibility for deferment after the gap year deadline open, depending on the nature of the fall term. Coffin told The Dartmouth on May 1 that the normal June 1 deadline for applying for a gap year was “elastic.”

“I can’t imagine that we won’t be responsive to students that step forward and say ‘This isn’t what I wanted,’” Coffin said at the time. 

In a May 21 blog post on the undergraduate admissions website, Coffin wrote that the admissions committee would “reopen the conversation” about postponing enrollment if classes were online in the fall, but cautioned that there are limitations to the College’s ability to allow students to postpone.

“If we find ourselves in an online scenario,” Coffin wrote in May, “we'll do our best to respond to as many postponement requests as we can without undermining the quality and composition of the Class of '24 or compromising access to the Class of '25 for high school juniors.” He added that 33 members of the Class of 2024 had already requested a gap year as of the blog post, ahead of the June 1 deadline. 

“Dartmouth cannot enroll a super-sized first-year class — or two first-year classes — in September 2021,” he wrote. “Therein lies the rub.”

A petition posted on Change.org this week calling on the College to “clarify” its policy and allow students to defer enrollment has garnered over 430 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Among other Ivy League institutions, Cornell University has modified its gap year policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its deadline for applying for gap years and deferrals was extended to July 10 from the previous deadlines of March 1 for early decision admits and June 1 for regular decision admits. 

Dean of the College at Princeton University Jill Dolan told the Council of the Princeton University Committee in early May that if students take a leave of absence or defer enrollment, “we cannot guarantee that they’ll all be able to return in one year,” according to the Daily Princetonian. University of Pennsylvania dean of admissions Eric Furda sent a letter to admitted international students in April reminding them of the possibility of a gap year. 

Yale University’s webpage with information for “students considering postponed matriculation” says applications submitted after May 1 will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Columbia University set a deadline of May 15 for the request, and Brown University set a deadline of June 15. 

Neither Coffin nor admissions director Paul Sunde could be reached for comment by press time on Wednesday. 

Another article with more information will be published in the future.