What To Do If You’ve Been Deferred
Getting deferred from your top choice school can be disappointing, but don’t despair! There are a number of steps that students can take after a deferral to improve their admission chances in the regular round.
Early Applications By the Numbers
The competition in the early action and early decision application pool has become increasingly intense with each passing year.
For the class of 2023, early applications rose at many selective schools around the US. Brown University reported a 19% increase in early decision applications for the class of 2023, with 4,169 students applying for early admission at the Ivy League institution. Yale University reported a record number of early applications this fall, with 6,020 students applying through the school’s early action round.
A rise in applicants seldom results in a rise in acceptances, however. Colleges have a lot to consider when building a class, and often, even if there are more students vying for admission, there’s little room to grow the entering class significantly.
What is a Deferral?
Students who are not accepted during the early application round are either deferred or denied. Students are denied in the early application cycle if the admissions committee feels a candidate is not competitive enough, however, if deferred, this means your application will be held and considered with the rest of the school’s regular decision applications. So there is a bright side!
In addition to still being a candidate for admission at the school, being deferred gives you the opportunity to send additional information to strengthen your application in the regular round. Our expert counselors have some tips on what you can do if you’re deferred.
1. First, determine if the college is still your top-choice. A deferral can evoke a lot of emotions, and might change how you view your early college, especially if you’ve had time to consider other college options in the time since you submitted your application. Take time to consider whether or not this college remains at the top of your list, or if you want to focus your energy on applying to other schools.
2. Next, find out what the college needs from you. Some colleges might request specific information, like an updated grade report or test scores. Other colleges might encourage students to submit additional materials like recommendation letters, updates on extracurricular activities, or a deferral letter. Students should determine what the college requires, what’s appropriate to provide, and heed those preferences. If a college explicitly states that deferred students should not submit additional application materials, then do not send in anything else. Students can ruin their chances in the regular round by not following directions.
If the college allows you to send additional materials, here’s what you can do next:
3. Compose a deferral letter. Write a one-page letter by email (and followed up by post) addressed to the admissions representative at the college who evaluates applicants from your high school and copy the dean of admissions. Your letter should:
- Genuinely show your commitment to your top choice school and articulate that if you are admitted in the regular decision round, you intend to enroll (if that’s the case). If you’re not sure that you’d enroll, write that the college remains a top choice for you.
- Re-state your reasons why that school best fits your academic and personal needs. Make references to specific professors, courses, extracurricular activities, and research opportunities that show your knowledge of the school.
- Update the college on all the achievements you have made, both inside and outside of the classroom, since you submitted your Early Action/Decision application.
- Be upbeat and do not show signs of disappointment or frustration.
4. Seek additional recommendation letters. If there is another teacher, especially a senior year teacher, or outside recommender, like a coach or employer, who can add new information to your application file, seek one additional letter of recommendation to send to the college. You can also do this if something in your life has changed since you first submitted your application and this change merits explanation.
5. Consider updating anything that was written in error or not written well in your original application. Families who come to IvyWise after a deferral often benefit from an Application Review. Our counselors, who are former admissions officers, carefully review the application and identify the factors that may have led to a deferral. We identify areas of the application that can be corrected or rewritten for future applications, like a resume or essay, and we can determine if you need to send supplementary information to the early school. It’s important to resist overloading the admissions office with new material. Consult with your high school college counselor before sending in any extra materials, so you only send in what is absolutely necessary.
6. Visit. If you have not yet visited your top choice college, take the opportunity to visit the campus before March 1st. A campus visit can help you decide if the college is truly for you, and can help you show demonstrated interest. During your campus visit, try to do the following:
- Meet face-to-face meeting with your admissions representative.
- Sit in on classes and have the opportunity to meet with a professor before or after class.
- Have lunch in the campus dining center to meet and speak with current students.
7. Send additional grades and test scores, if applicable. By early March, make sure your first choice school receives:
- A mid-year report with fall semester grades.
- An official score report from the SAT/ACT that shows any new test scores that you might have received since you submitted your original application.
8. Continue to apply to your regular decision colleges. Don’t neglect your regular decision applications while trying to improve your admission chances at your early college. Take time to address the deferral and provide additional information if appropriate, but don’t dedicate all of your time to it. Take the necessary steps, and then move on to completing your other applications by their deadlines.
Even though showing sincere interest may help your application at your early decision or early action school after a deferral, it is still possible that the admissions committee may not admit you in the spring. It is hard to predict the nuances of the application pool, which will affect how the admissions committee reviews your individual application.
While it’s okay to be disappointed, remember that there are also many reasons to stay positive. You will get into college, and college is what you make of it. Although you may have a “dream school,” if you have done your research well, there should be many schools that fit your needs and where you could be a happy and productive student. Don’t give up hope—there’s still plenty that you can do after being deferred. Good luck!
If you need additional help addressing a deferral decision, read more about our Deferral Consultation here.
Watch below as IvyWise counselor Rachel explains what students can do in order to improve their chances of admission after a deferral.