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Understanding the Facts About Deferrals

For students expecting early decisions, it’s easy to imagine how they’ll react to their admissions outcomes — whether it’s an acceptance or a rejection. But there’s another possibility on the table that many students forget to prepare for: a deferral.

What Is a Deferral?

Rather than rejecting good-fit students with strong profiles, some colleges will defer select early applications to the Regular Decision round. This means they’ll be reviewed again within the context of the regular applicant pool as if they hadn’t been reviewed previously. Simply put, a deferral is a second chance at admission. This gives 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 pools. A deferral also provides students the opportunity to show an improvement in grades, especially if they’re taking a challenging senior year course load. Since grades and course rigor are the most important factors that colleges consider when making admissions decisions, a promising first semester report card in senior year can significantly help a student’s chance of admission.

Why Was I Deferred?

There are a number of reasons why a student applying Early Decision or Early Action might have been deferred to the regular 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 during their senior year. Applicants can use this to their advantage by providing more information on recent accomplishments, grade improvements, and more to boost their application during the Regular Decision round.

Sometimes, a deferral is less about the applicant and more about the school. 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.

Deferral Statistics

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 reject many well-qualified applicants.

In the 2023-24 application cycle, 7,856 students applied Early Action to Yale. Of those applicants, 709 gained admission, and 20% were deferred to the Regular Decision round. That’s a lot of students to whom Yale is saying, “Let’s take another look.” While most colleges will either accept, deny, or defer applicants, others, like Georgetown, will defer every applicant they don’t accept in the early round. According to the university, about 15% of deferred applicants gain admission in the Regular Decision round.

Yearly trends and changes to the admissions process can also affect deferral statistics. For example, the University of Georgia deferred over 10,000 students who applied for the Class of 2025 — up from 6,800 deferrals during the prior year. Why the large jump? The university received about 27% more early applications, in part because of their switch to the Common Application and the test-optional policy they adopted due to COVID-19.

What Should I Do After Getting Deferred?

A deferral can be especially confusing, as many colleges have different approaches to handling deferral applications. Some might ask only 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:

Take Some Time to Reflect

A deferral can evoke feelings of disappointment, sadness, anger, or even relief. This decision can often offer clarity to students who might have mixed feelings about the college they applied early to.

Find Out the Next Steps

Most colleges that defer applicants 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 letter of continued interest (LOCI) — sometimes also called a deferral letter. Students should determine what the college requires, what’s appropriate to provide, and abide by those instructions. If a college explicitly states that deferred students should not submit additional application materials, then do not send anything else! Students can ruin their chances in the regular round by not following directions.

Colleges want to admit students who want to attend, so by writing a letter reaffirming their commitment to the college (if appropriate), students can improve their chances of admission. Students should reiterate their interest in the college and why they think they’re a good fit for the institution, as well as provide some updates on what they’ve been doing since they submitted their early application. This is a great tool that students can 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. For students who have fallen behind on applications, there’s still time to put together outstanding applications and essays. Complete all regular applications by their deadlines 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 to 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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