Deferred? What Next?

Steps to Take if Your College Admissions Application is Deferred

One great advantage of applying to college Early Decision or Early Action is getting an admissions decision before the new year. Unfortunately, the reality isn't always so kind. Many applicants 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.

01
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Don't Panic

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 (the author was one such applicant).

So remember: a deferral is not a rejection.

02
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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. By following the guidelines for writing a letter of continued interest, you can potentially improve your chances of being admitted with the regular applicant pool. As long as you write a strong letter of continued interest, the letter is a good idea. The worst case scenario is that your letter plays little role in the process.

03
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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, respectful, 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. Colleges won't always share the details of their decision-making process, but it can't hurt to ask.

04
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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

When sharing new information, make sure it is significant. A 10 point increase in your SAT score or a minor volunteer activity on a single weekend aren't going to change the college's decision.

As these sample letters reveal, there are good and bad ways to present updates to your record. As always, make sure you are polite and respectful in all of your correspondence with the admissions office.

05
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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 school.

06
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Send Supplemental Materials

Many applications, including the Common Application, provide an opportunity for submitting 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.

07
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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.

08
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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.

Remember that the advice above is general and that every college and university has its own policies when it comes to sending in additional documents. Don't contact the admissions office or send additional information until you research the policies of your particular school.