What To Do If Deferred

What is a Deferral?

Students that have applied to colleges through an early decision program (REA/EA/ED) can be “deferred”. This means they will be considered in the “regular” round, alongside regular decision program applicants.

Deferrals can happen for a number of reasons. Often, the pool of early applicants is incredibly competitive, and you might not have stood out enough among these students. While you may have been close to being admitted, some part of your application caused uncertainty, in which case you could might fare better being evaluated later – when you can submit additional evidence of accomplishment, such as your first semester senior grades, new higher test scores or new honors or accomplishments.

Being deferred is an excellent opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to a college, as well as to provide more information that could positively affect the ultimate admissions decision.

Here are some tips on what to do if you’ve been deferred.

Find Out What They Need From You

Read your entire deferral notice carefully. It will contain information about your next steps (if any) as a deferred applicant awaiting a final decision in the spring.

Note any materials they would like to be sent. The most helpful new information you can send them is your mid-year grade report and any new (and better) standardized test scores. Some colleges will ask for or accept extra recommendations. Some will not.

Check in with your school counselor and make sure your mid-year grades will be sent to this university.

This is the time to keep calm and formulate a compelling response.

This is the time to keep calm and formulate a compelling response.

Establish Communication and Continued Interest

Research your regional admissions officer and make initial contact through phone and email. Let them know that your interest in their college or university has only grown over time, and briefly explain why.

Confirm that you’ll absolutely enroll, if admitted. Colleges are very concerned about their “yield rates”: the number of students they admit versus the number that enroll. They hate being rejected, too! Make sure they know that will not be the case with you.


Compose a “Deferral Letter”

A “deferral letter” is a concise, clear statement showing your genuine commitment to this university. You can also use it to show how you are a stronger candidate now than you were when you first applied. In this letter, you should:

Keep it short and sweet. One page of easy-to-read writing is a good guideline. Admissions offices are incredibly busy during this period, and sending them a 5-page essay detailing your last three months will only make you seem anxious and desperate.

Confirm that this is your top-choice school. This is especially important if you applied through non-binding early action, in which case you should use the letter to clearly state that if accepted, you will enroll at this university. However, if you applied through binding early action, they already know this is your first-choice school, and you don’t need to explain that in any detail.

Re-state your reasons for choosing this school, touching on the ways it meets your academic, extracurricular, and personal interests. As in your supplemental essays, specificity is key.

Provide updates on any achievements (in and outside of school) that have occurred since your application was submitted. Take extra care when describing these. While you should take pride in your accomplishments, it’s important not to go too far and sound self-aggrandizing.

Be careful not to repeat yourself. Under no circumstances should you copy and paste passages from your earlier application essays--especially “why this school?” Admissions officers will notice, and they won’t be impressed. Come up with new ways to communicate your passion for this university.

Show your best, most authentic self. Colleges are interested in admitting real human beings, so keep the letter’s tone personal rather than formal. Touch on topics you’re genuinely interested in and excited about. At this point in the process, they’re looking for true stand-out people to add to the class, so present your smartest, most interesting, and most engaged self. This isn’t the time to be funny or clever, unless that’s really who you are.

Stay away from anger, bitterness, or desperation. While you may be feeling very disappointed or worried about your deferral, those feelings should never come through in your writing. Your tone should be hopeful and positive. Seeming as though you are entitled to a spot is the best way to ensure an admissions’ officer never grants you one.

Reevaluate Your Recommendations

Talk to your counselor: He or she will be in communication with the university in order to send your mid-year grades, and may be able to advocate on your behalf at that time. Ask your counselor if they would be willing to write a note acknowledging your deferral, reiterating all your good qualities, and confirming your continued love for this college. Let them know about any new events in your life--awards you’ve won, academic accomplishments, extracurricular experiences--that wouldn’t have made it into their original recommendation letter.

Send ONE New Recommendation Letter: Have you done well in a particularly rigorous course this semester? If that teacher was not one of your original recommenders, consider asking for a letter from them now. Or maybe you’ve built a strong relationship with an adult mentor in an academically-focused extracurricular like debate, mock trial, or robotics team. If so, approach this coach or mentor and ask if they’ll send a letter on your behalf. Ideally, this letter would be printed on the organization’s official letterhead and should be sent directly to the Office of Admissions.

Submit Your New Materials

Follow the university’s guidelines of what new material should and should not be sent. Follow these carefully; if the admissions office doesn’t want additional letters of recommendations and you send one anyway, it indicates that you weren’t paying attention.

Wait until you have new information to share before writing the admissions office. “New information” refers to any events or experiences that weren’t included in your admissions application because they occurred post-submission. These could include:

●        receiving an award

●        winning or placing in a competition

●        greater/deeper involvement in an extracurricular or research experience

Late February is an optimal time
to send your letter. That is when final admissions rounds begin, and your letter will be fresh in admissions officers’ memories. Since you likely submitted your early decision application in early November, this gap allows plenty of time for new achievements and experiences you can report in your letter.

Move Forward

Write once, and then step back. Avoid inundating the admissions office with multiple letters or sending pestering emails. It won’t reflect well on you as an applicant.

Keep your grades up and continue your extracurriculars. One of the best ways to communicate your continued interest in a school is to maintain high academic standards and honor your commitments.

Recognize that you’ve done all everything you can. Whether or not you’re ultimately accepted, you can take pride in all your hard work.

Marci CompassComment