Last Updated: Sep 24, 2020
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 manage one?
What is a deferral?
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.
What to do if you get deferred
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 (even if you have already).
- 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.
- Ask someone who has not read your application to read it and offer constructive criticism.
Related: So You've Been Deferred: Now What?
Improve your chances
Former admissions officers from AdmissionsCheckup.com, an online application review service that helps deferred students get admitted, agree that there are some things students can do between now and the end of February that may help move their applications to the “admit” pile. As founder of the website and a former Northwestern University admission officer, I can tell you that a deferral is not a denial, and it is possible to improve your chance of admission. Taking the following steps could put you in a position to gain admission to the school that deferred you:
- Write a very brief letter to the admission representative. Acknowledge the deferral and indicate that, although you're disappointed, the school still remains your top choice.
- Keep a list of any new accomplishments, awards, and improved grades. Those will provide additional strength to your application. Be mindful of directions from the school and how and when they want this information. Most of the former admission officers from AdmissionsCheckup.com suggest sending a letter or e-mail in late January with any updates, followed by a quick note at the end of February, stating “College X continues to be my first choice. Thank you for considering my application in the regular pool.”
- Don’t let senioritis hit too early! A strong showing in the classroom senior year is often the key to tipping the scales, and buckling down and studying is something that is in your direct control.
- Ask your high school counselor if there is anything they can do to help or if they have any suggestions.
Being admitted after a deferral depends a good deal on the specific school. Read the letter closely and check online to see if the school has a history of accepting fewer early applicants and therefore your chances are better. Since schools are more inclined to extend offers to students they believe will accept admission, this is critical. It’s still important not to put all your eggs in one basket—focus energy on the other schools on your list once you have completed the above tasks.
Don't let a deferral get you down! Check out our College Admission section for more advice.
AdmissionsCheckup.com’s admissions officers spent an average of eight years in the admissions officers of Georgetown, Columbia, Bowdoin, Ohio Wesleyan, Northeastern, College of the Holy Cross, Bates, Yale, and more.