Happy new year and congratulations to those who have just finished submitting all of their college applications. We understand better than most the work that you put in to make them shine.

Today, we’d like to discuss what to do after you’ve been deferred in the college admissions process. If you fall into this category, and the school you were deferred at is still one of your top choices, we can help you get organized.

What does a deferral mean?

A deferral can certainly be discouraging news to hear, but it isn’t the end of the world. Basically, the institution you’ve applied to has said “maybe, let’s wait and see.” The bad news is that they didn’t say yes, but the good news is that they didn’t say no either, something they could have done by rejecting you right off the bat.

A deferral means that a college was not ready to grant you admission in the early pool, but they thought your application was quite strong and they would like to review it again within the regular pool. That is it. Do not give yourself a headache by trying to read into it any further. Rather, try your best to relax and focus on the next practical steps you can take.

Okay, I’ve calmed down – now what?

Very carefully read over the information that the university has sent to you regarding your deferral. It is critical that you clearly understand and follow any instructions they give you. You may find this information in the form of an email sent to you or on your application portal. Some schools will explicitly prohibit you from sending additional information. If this is the case, do not send them anything – it will only hurt your application as it will become clear that you are unable to follow instructions (if you have any doubts about this, email the admissions office to ask them what they are okay with you sending).

Read carefully if they will accept any additional information from you. Often, they will give you access to a form where you can answer a few extra questions about yourself that will help them make a decision. If this is the case, try your best to fill everything out, as you are being given a great opportunity to provide them with additional information about yourself that may improve your status as an applicant.

They may ask for any new achievements or awards you’ve received. It’s important you sit down and think about all of your different involvements. Consider if there have been any significant developments since your sent your application in November. Be sure these developments are significant. Do not report something trivial like a 10 point increase in your SAT score.

What counts as a significant development?

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Improved test scores with significant increases (on the ACT, even a one point increase is significant, so feel free to list it).
2. New achievements, awards, or honors. Think about if you were awarded honor roll, a community service award, a national award, or if you won a competition with a team you’re on, for example.
3. New extracurricular involvements or leadership positions. Did you join a new organization or take up a new activity since submitting your application? Or perhaps you were elected president of a club at some point in December?

How to send this information to colleges

If you were given access to a deferral form, simply fill out the questions provided there. If you were not given access to a specific form, and the school does not explicitly say that you should not send supplemental materials, then feel free to write a letter containing all of your updated information.

You can address it to your regional admissions representative. Be very courteous and start by thanking them for considering your application. Reiterate your interest in attending their institution (if it is your first-choice, then say so) and then briefly update them on your significant developments.

Try to keep the letter brief and be sure that you are using a respectful tone. Proofread everything before you send.

Parting Advice

Relax! Focus on the practical steps you can take based on what you’ve read thus far. Read instructions carefully, and, if permissible, send updated information to colleges letting them know of your continued interest and your significant developments.

At the end of the day, college admissions can be extremely competitive and many highly qualified applicants will not gain admission to their top-choice school, despite being “good enough.” At American College Counselors, we work with our clients to build balanced college application lists, to ensure that our students will have a plan B and plan C that they are excited about. If you’ve properly balanced your list, don’t worry too much about a deferral or rejection from your top choice.

Keep your chin up and keep moving!

At American College Counselors, we work one-on-one with our clients to advise them on the optimal application strategy based on their unique academic, extracurricular, and social profile. We hope this information was helpful. If you’re looking for more personalized advise, please reach out to us at [email protected] to schedule a free initial consultation where we can get to know each other a bit more.

American College Counselors