If you apply to colleges in the early application round, you will hear early application decisions in December– accepted, rejected, or deferred. If the school deferred you, this means that your application will go back into the regular admissions cycle. In other words, you will receive a final admissions decision in April. So if you were deferred from a college, what can you do about it?
Why might the school defer you in the first place?
In 2014, Stanford accepted 743 early applicants; they postponed (or deferred) 562 to the regular round. At Georgetown, all unsuccessful early applicants receive a deferral to the regular round. As a result, around 15% of deferred applicants receive an acceptance in the spring.
Reason 1: Trending Academics
For example, colleges may want to see how your grades are trending and seeing if your grades or SAT/ACT improve.
Reason 2: Strength of Other Prospective Applicants (Regular Decision)
Another reason could be that they want to assess the regular applicant pool to determine the strength of overall applicants that year. For some colleges, you could be deferred because you did not demonstrate enough interest. Colleges want to accept students who will likely enroll.
Reason 3: Class Profile – looking for students of certain backgrounds or academic profiles
Certain colleges are looking for students from certain states, certain majors (STEM), and other criteria. For instance, University of Texas Austin must automatically admit enough students to fill 75% of its available Texas resident spaces. The college might be looking to fill certain types of profiles that the deferred applicant did not fit into, which is out of the applicant’s control.
There are many reasons applicants are deferred. In the end, it is not worth over-thinking why. It is time to take action.
How should a student decide on whether to apply Early Decision (ED) or Regular Decision (RD)?
Cornell Engineering has a higher admit rate in its early decision pool relative to the regular decision pool. Therefore, if a student is head over heels in love with Cornell Engineering, he/she should consider applying via Early Decision. The potential for a student’s admission rests upon the strength of his/her credentials relative to the total engineering ED pool.
Getting deferred does not necessarily mean that you will get rejected. There is a still a chance! Not every student who currently attends that college got accepted immediately- some were deferred or waitlisted.
Here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of acceptance during the regular admissions round:
Read the instructions and deferral policy carefully.
If the college requests additional materials (mid-year report, official SAT/ACT score report, etc), be sure to submit on time. Note any recommendations the college makes to increase your chances of acceptances.
Some colleges may explicitly tell deferred applicants not to call, write, or send additional materials for consideration. In that case, do not send them letters of recommendation or anything else that we recommend below.
Find the key admissions contact.
Try to find the admissions regional representative for your area. You can find the contact on the website or call the admissions office to find his/her name and email address.
Write a short, well-written, and informative update letter.
Reach out to the college by writing a short update letter by email to the admissions. Writing a long letter can seem desperate and possibly decrease your chances of admission. Try to get your college counselor to help you draft this letter.
Demonstrate interest in the college.
Show that you are genuinely committed by providing specific reasons why this college is the best fit for you academically and personally. Your reasons should be very specific, including specific courses, professors, student organizations, and research opportunities to showcase your knowledge of the school. Do not be generic. Sometimes applicants are deferred due to a lack of demonstrated interest, so be sure to show your enthusiasm.
If the college is your top choice, articulate that it is your top choice and, if you are admitted, you intend to enroll. Colleges care about yield, which is the percentage of students who enroll out of the total number of students accepted. If the college is not your number 1 choice, articulate your strong interest. You should not tell multiple colleges that they are your top choice.
Update the college on your latest achievements.
Update the college on your latest achievements since you submitted your early application: any awards, recognition, projects, new internships, etc… Although this would ideally include a significant award you won, it could be as simple as improving your Physics grade from a B+ to A-.
If you do not feel like you have much to update, think about ways you can achieve things in the meantime. Enter a competition, apply for an internship, or lead an event for a school club.
Consult your College Counselor
Work with your college admissions counselor to create a plan. Your college counselor has likely helped many students who have been deferred, perhaps even from that particular college. Ask if your college counselor to send a short update (email or phone call) on your performance to the college- this should include small details that your application may not have mentioned.
Letter of Recommendation
You may want to send an additional letter of recommendation that can provide a new perspective on you to strengthen your application. Look into senior year teachers or outside recommenders, such as coaches or employers. This LOR should provide new information about you that is not already included in your college application. This LOR should ideally highlight skills, personal characteristics, experiences, and strengths about you.
Do not send a letter of recommendation if you are asked to not submit any more materials.
Contact your Interviewer
If you had an interview, reach out to the interviewer and let him/her know that you were deferred. Your interviewer may have some advice, and may even be willing to reach out to the admissions office to further recommend you.
Should I visit the college to increase my chances?
This is a personal decision that depends on the opportunity cost for you. If you live nearby the school or you will happen to be there during winter break, feel free to visit. However, it may not be worth the time and effort to fly to a school just to increase your chances. Each school views demonstrated interest differently.
You should visit the campus to decide whether the college is a good fit for you, as opposed to visit solely to increase your chances. If you visit, see if you can meet with an admissions representative in person, sit in on some classes, and chat with your tour guide (who is likely a current student) about what it is like to attend that college.
Do not over-communicate with admissions.
Over-communicating can sound desperate and hurt your admissions chances. Be genuine and concise. Carefully select how you will convey demonstrate interest without overdoing it.
In the meantime, keep your grades up (senior grades are still very important), stay out of trouble (no disciplinary action), and stay focused and active on your extracurriculars. Overall, stay positive! You still have many more colleges to hear back from the regular admissions cycle. Being deferred from a college is definitely not the end of the road.