NEW YORK - The danger of the coronavirus - and the potential for it to radically change life on college campuses or keep instruction online this fall - has some students considering putting off their studies for a semester or a year.

"There is more ambiguity about how many students will show up for college this fall than I can remember in my career," Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, said.

What You Need To Know

  • Typically used for travel or work experience, the gap year is now seen as a way to ride out the pandemic.

  • Some students hope a more traditional college experience will be possible a semester or year later.

  • The American Council on Education found in surveys that 80% of college presidents were worried about enrollment, and 20% of students were unsure of their plans.

Hartle says the council's surveys found that 80 percent of college presidents are worried about fall enrollment, and 20 percent of entering freshmen are not sure whether they'd attend their first choice of college, switch to a different one or sit out this fall all together.

"Anecdotally, there’s no question that more students are inquiring about deferring or taking a gap year, or skipping the first semester and starting in the spring," Hartle said.

Typically used for travel or work experience, the gap year is now seen as a way to ride out the pandemic, in hopes that a more traditional, less socially distant, college experience might be possible a semester or a year later.

Jack McVeety, who's graduating from the Lab School in Manhattan, is considering a gap semester before attending Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He says many peers may do the same.

"I don’t think these colleges have ever seen this amount of requests for a gap semester, so I’m kind of hoping to decide fast and put in a request fast because if they run out of availability to hand out these gap semesters, then I’m stuck, which is certainly not the situation that i want to be in," McVeety said.

Pace University, with campuses in Manhattan and Westchester, says the number of families asking about the mechanics of deferring admissions is up.

"They’re asking questions about the process of a deferral, or what if I do A, or what happens if I do B," Andre Cordon, Dean of Admission at Pace, said.

Pace will let students defer until the spring without losing their merit scholarships and, unlike in years past, allow them to take college classes elsewhere.

"We want to make this a seamless process so they don’t have the stress and worry about, if I do this will it impact me negatively? And it won’t," he said.

Students don't need to rush their decision - Pace extended the deadline for returning tuition deposits to August first. Some other schools are doing the same.