Deferred- What's Next?
Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Five Tips & Next Steps to Manage the Uncertainty
The college deferral notification can be a test of patience. After all, one of the reasons you applied early was to learn sooner rather than later if you were accepted to your top choice college. The deferral letter means you must wait to be considered along with the rest of the applicant pool. How should you handle it and what can you do to increase your admission chances?
1. Don’t panic
Remember, it’s called “early” decision/action for a reason. The admissions season is just beginning.
2. Take a breath
It’s not what you were hoping for, but deferral is not the same as rejection. They are not saying “no” -- they are saying they want to compare you with the rest of the applicant pool during the regular decision round.
3. Don’t stop
Push on with the rest of your applications. Review each college application as a whole -- do they each present the best version of you and your achievements?
4. Review your list
Do you have a good mix of highly likely, target, possible, and reach schools? Should you add one or two more "high likely" schools where your stats are well above the college’s typical freshman profile?
Read the instructions on the deferral letter or email and do what they ask. This usually means letting them know if you are still interested in being considered for Regular Decision admissions. They may ask for mid-year grades. Pay attention to dates and make sure you notify them of your continued interest by the date specified.
Remember, much of the admissions process is outside of your control. Only your grades and your application are in your control. Other factors at play, and outside of your control, are your competition and the college’s institutional priorities (the college’s particular needs in a particular year). Some colleges defer students as an admissions tool that gives them more time to make decisions in the context of the entire applicant pool.
There a few things that are in your control that you can do to increase Regular Decision (RD) admissions chances.
In January, when the holidays have passed and regular decision applications are submitted, follow up with the admissions office. But before you communicate with the college, make sure the college is open to hearing from you. Check the deferral letter or visit the college’s website to learn their specific policy. Some colleges are quite clear that they do not want calls, emails, or additional materials from deferred applicants.
Stanford University asks that students answer three specific questions while the University of Michigan discourages any additional information. Other colleges welcome communication in the form of a call, new information, and letters of recommendation.
Figure out a plan and respond based on the college’s policy.
Your goal is to make a good impression and show some “love.”
Tips on Communicating with the College
If communication is welcome, contact Admissions. Specifically, call or email the admissions representative for your area -- that person likely read your application and may even remember you. You may get personal feedback on how your application stacked up against the rest of the early pools. Note, the applicant, the student, not the parent should be the person initiating this communication!
Express gratitude for the opportunity to speak with them during this busy time.
Explain you received a letter notifying you that your application was deferred
Ask what percentage of students who were deferred ultimately are accepted.
Insider tip: at highly selective schools the rate of admission from a deferral is usually the same as the school's overall admission rate. A school that accepts 20% of applicants is likely to accept about 20% of deferrals.
Ask if there is something you could address that would increase your chances of being accepted.
Ask if they are open to receiving updates on your academics and extracurriculars.
Make sure you have all of the representative’s contact info, email, etc. for future communication and updates.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t learn detailed info about why you are deferred. The call is more about demonstrating that you are invested in the school.
Have your counselor make a call on your behalf, if they are willing. Sometimes admissions officers are more forthcoming with school counselors.
Submit your 1st-semester grades.
If you do send additional information, make sure it is “new” information.
Schedule an interview, if it is an option and you have not yet done it.
Write the college a “love letter” (a Letter of Continued Interest).
Think about why you are a good match for this school and why the school is a match for you. Share new information that was not already in your application. Keep your tone upbeat and positive. Be respectful and appreciative of their time.
In a non-pandemic environment, I'd ask, "Have you visited the college?" If not, and the college is one that tracks demonstrated interest, I'd suggest that you may want to consider a trip -- or at least a call explaining why one is not feasible at this time. If the pandemic makes a visit too risky, consider engaging in more virtual visit opportunities. Is the college offering opportunities to sit in on a virtual lecture? Or participate in a virtual student or alumni interview? If so, take advantage of these opportunities to show your interest.
What sort of “additional” information should you share?
Mid-year grade report. Most colleges will request this. Have it sent officially, via your school counselor, or your transcript service, but you can also update the college with the relevant information in your email correspondence.
Pandemic-related advice: mid-year grade reports are especially important when you consider that many high schools used alternate grading scales for the spring semester of 2020 and the majority of students spent most of 2020/21 in a non-typical, remote learning environment. This means that the last true grade record they have is from the first semester of your junior year and now the first semester of your senior year.
Additional recommendations. These should highlight your unique qualities and why you are a great fit for the school. Remember to verify that the college will accept additional information.
New and improved SAT or ACT scores if available.
Normal year advice: there may be time to take another ACT or SAT if you think a score increase would be to your benefit. According to this article, admissions officers often want to see new Jan. or Feb. test scores.
COVID Year Advice: if you managed to get a late set of scores, though highly unlikely, send them!
Participation in a new extracurricular activity
A new leadership position in a group or team
A new honor or award
A new interest or skill developed (particularly, now during this time when so many other extracurriculars are not possible).
Tufts University created a great graphic to helps students answer the "Should I sent it?" question. Check it out.
And here's a blog post written by a student deferred by Princeton University in which she shares her deferral letter and advice from personal experience.
A Final Note
I can not stress the importance of Demonstrating Interest enough. Even for match schools.
Sometimes students can be denied admission, not because they aren't qualified, but because they are more than qualified. The admissions officers may believe the student won't accept the spot if offered. If this happens too often it lowers the college's yield - the number of acceptances in relation to admissions offers. A low yield reflects poorly on a college.
It can be beneficial for students to demonstrate interest even with these target schools.
Sources for this summary and Additional resources from around the web:
Do you have questions about preparing for college? Let's talk!