Deferred? What Next?

Steps to Take if Your College Admissions Application is Deferred

Many students who applied to college Early Decision or Early Action are finding that they've been neither accepted nor rejected, but deferred. If you find yourself in this limbo, here are some guidelines for how to proceed.

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Don't Panic

A worried student
A worried student. murat sarica / E+ / Getty Images

Most likely, if you've been deferred, your credentials are in the ballpark for getting accepted. If they weren't, you'd be rejected. However, your application wasn't so far above average that the college wanted to give up a spot in the entering class until they could compare you to the full applicant pool. The percentages vary from college to college, but many students do get accepted after being deferred (I was one such applicant).

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Send a Letter of Continued Interest

Assuming the college doesn't explicitly tell you not to send any more material, a letter stating that the school is still your top choice is always a good idea. Here are some guidelines for writing a letter of continued interest. Also, see these sample good letters of continued interest and this sample weak letter of continued interest.

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Find Out Why You Were Deferred

Unless the college asks you not to do so, give the admissions office a call and try to find out why you were deferred. Be polite and positive when making this call. Try to convey your enthusiasm for the college, and see if there were particular weaknesses in your application that you might be able to address.

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Update Your Information

Chances are the college will ask for your midyear grades. If you were deferred because of a marginal GPA, the college will want to see that your grades are on an upward trend. Also, think about other information that might be worth sending:

  • New and improved SAT or ACT scores
  • Membership in a new extracurricular activity
  • A new leadership position in a group or team
  • A new honor or award
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Send a New Letter of Recommendation

Is there someone who knows you well who can really promote you effectively? If so, an additional letter of recommendation might be a good idea (but make sure the college allows extra letters). Ideally, this letter should talk about the specific personal qualities that make you an ideal match for the particular college that has deferred you. A generic letter won't be nearly as effective as a letter that explains why you are a good match for your first-choice college.

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Send Supplemental Materials

Many applications, including the Common Application, provide the opportunity for sending in supplemental materials. You don't want to overwhelm the admissions office, but you should feel free to send in writing or other materials that will show the full breadth of what you can contribute to the campus community.

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Be Polite

As you try to get out of deferral limbo, you're likely to correspond with the admissions office several times. Try to keep your frustration, disappointment, and anger in check. Be polite. Be positive. Admissions officers are remarkably busy this time of year, and their time is limited. Thank them for any time they give you. Also, make sure your correspondence doesn't become pesky or harassing.

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Have a Back-Up

While many deferred students do get accepted during regular admissions, many do not. You should do all you can to get into your top choice school, but you should also be realistic. Make sure you have applied to a range of reach, match, and safety colleges so that you will have other options should you get a rejection letter from your first choice.

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Sample Letters

If you have been deferred but have new information to present to the college, you'll want to write a letter presenting the updates. Below are a few samples letters:

  • Sample Letter #1: Caitlin writes to the University of Georgia to explain a new award.
  • Sample Letter #2: Laura writes to Johns Hopkins to present new test scores and a new leadership position on campus.
  • Sample Letter #3: Brian writes to Syracuse University but would have done better not writing. See his letter to learn about mistakes to avoid.