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Facts about Deferrals: What it Means, Why It Happens, and Your Chances of Admission

Facts about Deferrals: What it Means, Why It Happens, and Your Chances of Admission

For students expecting early decisions this December, it’s easy to imagine how they’ll react to their decision – whether it’s an acceptance or a rejection. But there’s another possible outcome on the table that many students forget to prepare for – a deferral.

What is a deferral?
Simply put, a deferral is a second chance at admission. Rather than rejecting good-fit students with strong profiles, applications are instead deferred to the regular round where they’ll be reviewed again within the context of the regular applicant pool, as if they hadn’t been reviewed previously. This allows colleges the opportunity to make decisions on strong applicants with the whole view of the applicant pool. For many students, this can be an advantage, as the regular decision pool is typically not as strong as the early pool. A deferral also allows students the opportunity to show an improvement in grades, especially if they’re taking a challenging senior year course load, which can significantly help chances of admission since grades and curriculum are the most important factors colleges consider when making admission decisions.

Why you might have been deferred.
There are a number of reasons why a student applying early decision or early action might have been deferred to the regular admission round. Many times, it’s to encourage students to provide additional materials, like final semester grades, in order to see what else that student has been doing senior year. Applicants can use this to their advantage, by providing more information on recent accomplishments, awards, grade improvements, and more, in order to boost their application in the regular decision round.

Many times, a deferral is a tool that admission offices use to give them more time to make decisions about applicants within the context of the entire pool of applicants. It’s hard for colleges to predict exactly what their regular decision pool will look like, so this is one more tool they can use to ensure they’re building a well-rounded class.

There are also cases when a deferral is a courtesy decision, in order to let down special applicants, like legacies or development cases, more easily.

Deferrals by the numbers.
Deferral numbers differ from school to school, and many don’t make deferral statistics public. At highly selective institutions, it’s not unheard of to defer a majority of early applicants, as the early application pool is so competitive and it’s hard to pass up many well-qualified applicants.

Last year, 482 students applied early decision to Amherst College. Of those applicants, 172 gained admission, and 187 were deferred to the regular decision round. That’s a pretty even distribution among accepted, rejected, and deferred. At Harvard, however, out of 5,919 early action applicants, 4,292 were deferred to the regular round. That’s almost 73% of early applicants. At MIT, 4,456 out of 6,519 early applicants were deferred last year.

For many colleges, a deferral is a genuine effort to learn more about the student in order to make sure he or she is, or isn’t, a good fit for the freshman class. For some schools, however, a deferral is used in place of a rejection. Georgetown University, for example, does not deny any applicants from the early action pool. Those who are not accepted are all deferred to the regular admission round for consideration again. According to the university, about 15% of deferred applicants gain admission in the regular decision round.

What should you do after getting deferred?
A deferral can be especially confusing as many colleges have different approaches to handling deferral applications. Some might only ask for updated grades, while others might accept additional materials that can add context to a student’s application. Here’s what students need to do if they are deferred:

  • First, determine if that college is still a top-choice. A deferral can evoke feelings like disappointment, sadness, anger, or even relief. This decision can often offer clarity to students who might have mixed feelings about an early college after applying.
  • Next, find out what the college wants from you. Most will ask for an updated grade report, which students will need to request from their high school. For many colleges, that’s all they will require. Some, however, will let students 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 appropriate, write a deferral letter. Colleges want to admit students who want to attend, so by writing a letter reaffirming their commitment to the college, students can improve their chances of admission. Students should reiterate their interest in the college, why they think they’re a good fit for the institution, and provide some updates on what they’ve been doing since they submitted their early application. This is a great tool that students can really use to their advantage.
  • Finish up regular decision applications. Hopefully, students who applied in the early round kept up with completing their regular decision applications. If not, there’s still time to put together outstanding applications. Complete all regular applications by the deadline and ensure that all materials are in order and have been received. Don’t let your disappointment from a deferral hurt your chances of admission at other colleges. Stay positive and on track.

A deferral can be confusing, especially if a student is really committed to that college. At IvyWise, we provide deferral counseling services in order to help students and parents understand their options, their chances of admission, and help them through the deferral process. For more information on our deferral consultation, contact us today!

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