20 Dec 2019

If your application was deferred, here’s what you should do.

It’s normal to be a little disappointed that you didn’t get a simple “yes” from your school of choice. 

If your application has been deferred, you have been moved from the early pool of applicants to the Regular Decision pool. You will be competing against all applicants who submit their applications Regular Decision. However, there are many things you can do to increase your chances of acceptance in the Regular Decision round. 

Being deferred is a sign that you are qualified for the school; it usually means there is a weak spot in your application profile, or you need to find a way to distinguish yourself more. This is the time to pull out all of the stops, and go the extra mile to gain acceptance!


Step 1.  Read the college’s deferral letter. Sometimes, they will give you specific things you can do to improve your application and specific things NOT to do. Then, reflect on your application – could your personal statement have been tighter? Were there any typos in your application? This won’t help your application to your deferral school, but it will help with your Regular Decision applications that will be due soon. You should also identify any additional leadership opportunities that could enhance your application. 

Step 2. The next thing to do is to get on the phone and call the admissions office directly. Ask to speak to your Regional Admissions Officer; usually you need to leave your name and number and they call you back (remember to specify when you are available to take the call). You want to accomplish two things with this phone call:

  1. Find out how you can improve your chances of admission
  2. Make a connection with the officer, and reiterate how the school is one of your top choices and you would love to attend.

Stay positive throughout, and don’t make any excuses; simply try to get some information. If you can, briefly tell them about one or two new developments, and ask if you can email them updates. That’s all; a short conversation is totally fine, but YOU need to call–not a college counselor, and not your parents. 

Step 3.  Write your first deferral letter, and send it out by January 15th. To write this letter, start by reiterating that the school is your top choice, and you are still committed to attending. Follow this statement with 2-3 updates on any defining accomplishments you have achieved since you submitted your application. Conclude by thanking the admissions committee for taking the time to review your letter. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post in which we will describe how to create this letter, and what to write in it!  

This step is extremely important. You should also plan to send another of these letters in late February with additional updates, so make sure to keep your grades up, and rack up special accomplishments if possible. 

Step 4.  Turn your attention to recommendations. A good package of recommendations would include the following.

  • 2 letters from Alumna of the school. If you have any family or friends who are Alumna, ask them to write you a letter of support and send it to your Admissions Officer. The purpose of this letter is for them to “vouch” for you, but it doesn’t have to be a lengthy recommendation. Make sure to remind your recommenders to include their contact information within the letter itself. 
  • A recommendation from a Senior year teacher, coach or mentor. This will be a more formal recommendation to add to your file, and they should tailor their letter to this school.

Step 5. Talk to your Guidance Counselor about sending a Mid-Year transcript with your most recent grades (assuming they are good!). Colleges will be re-evaluating your application packet when it is time to decide who is admitted and who is not. Showing them that your grades have improved since you first applied will give admissions offers a good impression of your commitment to your studies. It may earn you more points towards being placed in the “admitted” category.

Being deferred means you’re still in the running. These steps will give you what you need to distinguish yourself. And, learning to advocate for yourself in the right way is a valuable life-skill! While you certainly do not want to overwhelm or harass admissions officers, showing your continued interest– and your persistence when it comes to achieving your goals– can improve your chances of moving out of the deferred pile into “accepted.” 

In the meantime, finish up your other applications. Even though you may feel disheartened, make sure your Regular Decision applications are as strong as possible. Don’t neglect these just because you’re holding out hope you’ll get in to your first choice school. You’ll need options– and who knows, you may end up with a change of heart later on! 

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