My Dream College Deferred Me. What Should I Do?

In recent years, the number of students submitting college applications in Early Decision and Early Action admissions cycles has increased. Many students believe that applying early leads to a better chance of acceptance. The reality is that colleges have not increased open slots. Therefore, most early action and early decision applicants will be either denied admission or deferred for reconsideration in the spring.

If you applied early and received a deferral letter, you are not alone. College data shows that admissions offices are routinely doling out more deferral letters than acceptance and denial letters combined. For example, of the 6,016  students who applied for admission to Yale’s Class of 2023, 13% were accepted, 30% were denied, and most, 56% were deferred.

When deferred, you feel like the college has put you in limbo as you wait until March to learn the final decision. Use this time to take action to better position yourself in the regular admissions pool.

First, read the deferral letter and look for instructions on what to do next. If the letter states not to send additional materials, do not mail the college anything new.

If the letter does not discourage you from sending materials, then write a response letter addressed to your assigned admissions officer. The letter should express your continued interest in the college and detail any updates in grades, standardized test scores, projects, new activities, or awards that can strengthen your application. Be sure to attach an updated resume that reflects what you write in the letter.

Until a spring decision is provided, keep in touch with the admissions officer periodically (e.g. monthly) to stay on her radar as a student who’s very much excited about the institution.

Next, plan to visit the school. This is especially important if you have never stepped foot on campus. If offered, set up an interview, so that you can meet with a campus representative to whom you can express your enthusiasm and will share this with the admissions office.

Also important is that you get to know other schools that you may have previously overlooked. Often students get stuck on one particular school and ignore others for which they may be better suited. There is still plenty of time to apply to colleges as deadlines can go as late as February 1st.  Many schools offer rolling admissions, where they accept students throughout the year. Take advantage of this time to open up your options. You may end up preferring another school over the one that deferred you.

Finally, if you are ultimately accepted, be sure that you send a Thank You note. This is a step that is often overlooked but is a courtesy for the time and attention the admissions officer put into evaluating your application.

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