Most accepted students have the option of taking a gap year before arriving on College Hill, but some are required. For the latter group, admission to Brown is offered on the condition that they take time off and enroll the subsequent year.
For the past five admission cycles, an average of 26 applicants per year received these offers of delayed admission, according to Dean of Admission Jim Miller ’73. Over that period, 54 percent of applicants offered delayed admission matriculated — similar to the overall matriculation rate. The Office of Admission refers to the arrangement as “deferred admission.”
The number of deferred admission offers has ranged from 21 for the class of 2011 to 29 for the class of 2015, though Miller said the University may have up to 35 deferred admission spaces per year, depending on the applicant pool. The University begins offering deferred admission to students on the waitlist after all spots in the entering class are filled, he said.
Deferred admission applicants account for about a quarter of the matriculants who take gap years, Miller said. Out of the about 40 to 60 gap year students each year, 10 to 15 are deferred admission applicants.
The practice began five years ago, Miller said, as the admit rate continued to plummet. The admission rate for the classes of 2006 to 2010 averaged 15.7 percent, but for the classes of 2011 to 2015, the figure dropped to 11.4 percent. A record-low 8.9 percent of applicants were admitted to the class of 2015.
“There were students we wanted to have but weren’t able to admit,” Miller said.
The Office of Admission offers deferred admission to a variety of students each year, Miller said, but it often considers students who strengthened their record over the course of their senior year in high school and might benefit from an extra year before college. Applicants with medical issues or those who had previously notified the office of gap year plans may also be given deferred admission offers, he said.
But Miller said Brown does not tend to offer deferred admission to candidates with family connections to the University.
According to a March 30, 2010 article in the Harvard Crimson, Harvard offers deferred admission to between 30 and 50 applicants each year. But over the years, some have charged that the “Z-list” — the term used by Harvard admissions for deferred admissions — is a legacy student list. Eighteen of 28 Z-listed students interviewed by the Crimson were legacies, with only a few receiving any form of financial aid. William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, told the Crimson Harvard Z-lists a high number of legacies because they are deemed more likely to accept the offer.
Marlyn McGrath, Harvard’s director of admissions, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
In 2009, Conor Sullivan ’14 had been planning to go to Carnegie Mellon University until he received a deferred admission offer from Brown in late June. Because it had been one of his top choices and the idea of a gap year appealed to him, he decided to accept the offer.
Sullivan, a San Jose, Calif., native, said because he had been notified of his admission during the summer, he was not able to plan out his year as well as he would have liked to. But he said he enjoyed his gap year regardless. Sullivan, who is not a legacy, worked at a movie theater, took a wilderness EMT course at Yosemite National Park and traveled around the country by himself.
Jonathan Ciriello ’15, a 2010 graduate of the Pingry School in New Jersey, said he had never considered taking a gap year until he was waitlisted and asked that May to take a year off before joining the class of 2015.
Ciriello, also not a legacy, said he had never heard of deferred admission and though his initial response to the offer was positive, he said the process was “definitely not the best on some level.” Given two weeks to decide, he visited campus twice and eventually accepted the offer because Brown had been his favorite school during the application process. At the time, Ciriello had committed to Tufts University, and though he said he would have chosen Brown over Tufts had all things been equal, the “deciding factor” was what he would do with his year off.
A biochemistry concentrator, Ciriello came to Providence for the year and did research in a biology lab within the Division of Biology and Medicine. He said he was unsure at the time if he would regret his decision, but ultimately concluded the gap-year experience was “definitely worth it.”