So You've Been Deferred: Now What?

Are you feeling down because you got deferred from your dream college? Improve your chances of turning that deferral into an acceptance with this advice.

It’s the season of college acceptance letters, which means it’s also the season of deferrals. There’s no dancing around it—it’s always disappointing to be deferred. It’s especially difficult when deferral letters follow Early Action acceptance notifications by only a few days. Feelings of discouragement, failure, and depression are common, especially when friends are celebrating their college acceptances and posting about it on social media, and you’re…deferred.

What is a deferral?

A deferral is synonymous with the more old-school term “waitlisted.” But it doesn’t mean you just have to sit tight and wait in limbo for the next few months. You can’t guarantee a later acceptance, but taking action if your application has been deferred will offer you a sense of control in your college admission process. Take key steps that could ultimately make the difference between Regular Decision acceptance or not.

Here’s what I often tell deferred students: Don’t be hamstrung by your disappointment. As painful as it may be, read the deferral letter or email carefully. You’ll usually find details suggesting possible next steps.

Related: More Waiting? 7 Tips for Students on the Waitlist

Express your continued interest

To start, colleges typically want to know if you’re still interested in attending should you be admitted. Some schools that notify students electronically will include a link to an interest form that indicates your wish to have your application remain active for admission consideration. Other schools will point you where to go to update your status preference in your student account.

Sometimes colleges simply encourage you to express continued interest via a brief email to either your specific admission counselor or to the admission office in general. Do this. Skipping over this basic step could signal that you no longer wish to be considered for admission.

Update crucial info

Next, provide updated academic information. It’s important to maintain solid grades first semester of senior year—a continued record of academic achievement inevitably strengthens your application. Your most recent official transcript showing fall grades is the easiest supplement to your application.

Now is also the time to include information or documentation related to any extracurricular honors or internship experiences that may have occurred since you submitted your application. Don’t forget to mention these achievements or provide records when you reach out to the admission office. 

Related: 4 Things to Do if You’re Deferred by Your Dream College

Consider retaking standardized tests

Some students opt to retake the SAT or ACT in an effort to report higher test scores if this is what’s halting their admission status. As you’d expect, this isn’t popular on the “deferral to-do list” among students, but it’s an option.  If you plan to retake a test, make sure that scores will be released in time to meet the admission deadline of your college.

Reach out to an admission counselor

Regardless of what your deferral letter says, reaching out to an admission counselor is always a good idea. In a few sentences, express your continued interest in the school and inquire if it’s possible for you to provide additional updated materials. Counselors will typically respond with suggestions.

In my worst experience, a student’s admission representative replied that there was nothing she needed to do. That was frustrating because it meant all she could do was wait; but that’s really the worst-case scenario (and she ended up going to another school she liked better anyway). 

More often, I’ve known admission counselors to offer personalized encouragement and specific suggestions for bolstering the application file. In one case, a counselor suggested a student indicate another prospective major that had more room than his initial choice. He did and was accepted, and by second semester of his first year, he was admitted to the original, more competitive major. In another case, an admission counselor who was familiar with the student’s application took the time to explain exactly why she was deferred (her test scores were lower than their Early Action average) and offered multiple ideas on what to send to tip the decision in her favor. In fact, the counselor had already attached the email to her file as evidence of her interest.

Both of those contacts with counselors reassured students and helped assuage their initial disappointment. Most importantly, these students understood why they were deferred. They didn’t have to wonder, guess, or feel bad about their entire application—and they realized that, to some degree, their deferral was about larger factors they couldn’t control. 

In the end...

The bottom line: deferral is naturally disappointing, but there is action you can take to potentially sway the admission decision while you wait. No matter what else you do, contacting the institution’s admission counselors for specific guidance they can provide is the right place to begin. 

Use our College Search tool to find other great schools (just in case you need a backup or two)!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress


High School Class of 2021

For a long time, I've been searching everywhere to find the perfect website I can get scholarships and information from. Needless to say, I could never find the right one. That was, until I found CollegeXpress. Through my journey of finding the right scholarships for me, I was able to find articles about different things. They've all been helpful, especially in times like this! I was even able to connect with some of my favorite colleges! I love CollegeXpress. Thank you!

Carlie Cadet

Carlie Cadet

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me learn about an abundance of scholarships available to me and my situation. I was able to do research for colleges in my best interest with your website. I've had multiple colleges email me and offer me multiple scholarships and things of that nature because of this website! Thank you so much for uploading scholarships I didn’t even know existed, even if my life took a huge turn and I wasn’t able to go to college straight out of high school. CollegeXpress helped me a lot in high school to be even more motivated to get into my dream college (which I did, by the way). I'm looking forward to using the materials CollegeXpress has kindly provided me for free to look for scholarships to help pay for college.

Jeannie Borin, MEd

Jeannie Borin, MEd

President and Founder, College Connections

I frequently visit CollegeXpress to answer questions from students and parents. There are countless hot topics in admissions that need to be addressed. I enjoy reading what my colleagues post and gain additional insight from different perspectives.

Tariq Adam Khatib

Tariq Adam Khatib

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me a lot. I am a Tanzania boy who finished my high school studies in Tanzania. I never knew I could get an opportunity to get a scholarship to study abroad. I am happy that now I know how to find the school to study abroad through CollegeXpress.



High School Class of 2023

I’m currently a college freshman attending Towson University. My major is Information Technology, and I plan to minor in Electronic Media & Film to achieve my goal of becoming a production engineer. Upon graduating high school earlier this year, I was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from CollegeXpress, which greatly assisted in paying my tuition. Truthfully, this financial reward was the difference in affording my room and board and tuition, along with other expenses for school. My family and I haven’t stopped celebrating my award since it was bestowed on me. I will never forget this opportunity for allowing me to get my foot into my university financially.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

New York University - Abu Dhabi Campus

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg, PA

Sterling College

Sterling, KS

Miami University

Oxford, OH