As early application decisions are released this December, some students may encounter a strange outcome that isn’t as clear-cut as an acceptance or denial – a deferral. This can be a confusing end result after working so hard on your early application, but luckily there’s a lot you can do to understand exactly what a deferral means and how to improve your chances of admission.
A deferral is an admissions outcome wherein an early applicant, for various reasons, has been sent to the regular admissions cycle for reevaluation, and will receive a decision in April with the other regular applicants. This result, while concerning for students and families, is pretty common.
A deferral isn’t an application death sentence; it’s just an opportunity for the admissions committee to take another look at your application against a wider applicant pool, while simultaneously evaluating its own institutional needs. So, as torturous as it may be to wait for a decision in April, it’s a good sign that you’re still in the race.
While it’s easy to throw up your hands and say “I’ll wait until the Spring to learn my fate,” this is not a time for inaction. There’s plenty that you can do now to increase your odds of admission in the regular round.
- Finish up your regular decision applications. This is the most important step when responding to a deferral. Chances are, you haven’t quite completed your other applications in anticipation of an acceptance to your early college, and that’s normal. However, now you’re back in the regular application pool, and you need to finish the applications to the other colleges on your balanced college list. Don’t wait until the last minute.
- Understand and heed the school’s deferral policy. Before responding to the college, make sure you understand their rules for deferrals. Some colleges explicitly tell deferred applicants not to call, write, or send additional materials for consideration. Know the college’s policy and consult with your college counselor. Together, you and your counselor can form a plan of action to effectively address the deferral.
- Draft a letter of continued interest (LOCI) or deferral letter. This is the most standard response a deferred student can send a college – and goes a long way for demonstrating interest. If the college is still your top choice, write a letter expressing your continued interest and intent to enroll upon admission. Succinctly reiterate why you think the college is the best fit for you, and include updates on any achievements since you submitted your early application. Keep it short, but informative and impactful. Your college counselor can help you with this.
- Send any additional materials. Outside of the deferral letter, it can also be helpful to send additional letters of recommendation, an update on performance from your counselor, mid-year grade report, or any extra materials that might strengthen your applicant profile. The key is to update the school on your performance senior year in an effort to help the admissions committee make a more informed decision – as there are a number of things that might have caused you to be deferred in the first place. Work with your college counselor to assess the situation, gather more information from the admissions office, and decide what extra materials make sense to send along.
- Stay positive. A deferral can be discouraging, but it’s not the end of the road. You still have a good chance of gaining admission to your top-choice college. Historically, about 10% of deferred applicants to the University of Chicago are accepted in the regular round, and last year at the University of Pennsylvania, 125 of deferred applicants were accepted in the regular round – accounting for roughly 9% of admitted students at a college with an overall admission rate of 9.9%. It’s an uncertain process, but with proper planning and guidance, you will gain admission to colleges that are great fits for your needs and goals.