Deferred, Not Deterred

Founder, Winning Applications

Dec   2014



Preparing college applications is an arduous and stressful process. Taking tests, writing essays, and seeking recommendations require months of preparation. Sometimes this effort is rewarded by early admittance to a top-choice school. By applying early, a student hopes to receive a letter of admission in December. Unfortunately, even for many of the most talented students, the letter from the admission office informs them of a deferral. What exactly is a deferral, and what is the best way to mange one?

The admission committee’s mandate is to put together a talented group of motivated and highly diverse young people who will contribute to campus life and ultimately be successful graduates. When deciding upon early applicants, the admission committee has yet to see the larger, regular decision applicant pool. Aside from a number of stand-out applicants who do receive early admission, a number of suitable candidates may be deferred so that the admission committee can consider them in light of the total applicant pool. When a student is deferred, he or she will receive an “admit” or “deny” decision at the same time as regular decision applicants.

Upon receiving a deferral, it is possible to improve one’s chances of admission. Here are just a few helpful suggestions:

  • If you have not interviewed, now is the time to do it . . . preferably on campus. Make sure you practice your interview skills with a seasoned interviewer until you are confident that your skills are strong.
  • If you can, visit the campus . . . again.
  • Attend an information session, often given by a member of the admissions committee. Ask questions such as, “What percent of students are typically admitted after being deferred?” and “Is there anything I can do that might increase my chances of gaining admission?” Not only will this earmark you as a deferred candidate, but the information session speaker may note your visit and strong school interest in your application file. When your application is reevaluated, that interest will shine through. Since schools are more inclined to extend offers to students they believe will accept admission, this is critical.
  • Without becoming a nuisance, keep the admission committee abreast of any new accomplishments on a regular basis.
  • Ask someone who has not read your application to read it and offer constructive criticism. My site, a network of former admission officers, will review your application and give you a fresh perspective on why you were deferred/waitlisted. Perhaps, unknowingly, you gave the wrong impression or neglected to include something important. Not only will you hopefully be able to “fix it” by sending the school some clarification, but you may also be able to head off a similar miscommunication at another school.

Given the competitive nature of college admission, it is smart to research and apply regular decision to other schools. While a deferral is far from ideal, it can, if properly managed, still lead to admission.

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About Stephanie Klein Wassink

Stephanie Klein Wassink

Stephanie Klein Wassink is the founder of Winning Applications and Admissions Checkup. She is also a former admission officer and a long-time college counselor.