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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Ryan S. Wells

Second Advisor

Ezekiel W. Kimball

Third Advisor

Laura B. Balzer

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Higher Education Administration


Prior research on delayed entry and gap years have produced conflicting results on the relationships between deferring entry to college and postsecondary academic success. Specifically, studies on delayed entry have linked the phenomenon to lower attainment rates, while the literature on gap years has shown a positive relationship with college GPA. These conflicting findings make it unclear for students, families, counselors, administrators, and policymakers to understand whether deferring entry to college is an opportunity that should be pursued by more individuals or if it is something to be avoided. The focus of this dissertation was to bring prior findings on delayed entry and gap years in concert with one another and illuminate which groups of students, if any, achieve higher levels of postsecondary academic success after deferring entry to college. A key way this study built on prior research was by adjusting for institutional selectivity and examining whether it moderated the relationships between deferment and the two most commonly used outcome variables in the literature: on-time graduation rate and college GPA. Using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) as my data source, I conducted OLS and logistic regression to test for significant relationships between variables of interest. Results showed that deferment was associated with lower attainment rates and college GPAs at highly selective colleges and less selective colleges, even when controlling for covariates. These relationships persisted when controlling for institutional selectivity and findings showed that institutional selection did not moderate the relationship between deferment and postsecondary success. Rather, students at highly selective and less selective colleges who deferred entry to college achieved lower levels of postsecondary academic success than their counterparts. These results support prior research on delayed entry and challenge findings from the literature on gap years. The results of this dissertation push gap year scholars to more convincingly demonstrate which students, if any, benefit academically from deferring entry to college and what are the relevant factors that enable these individuals to outperform their peers. Additionally, findings from this dissertation have important implications for stakeholders ranging from high school students to policymakers.