Deferral: Not a Dead End!

The time has come, and you receive an email: “There’s a new status update to your application.” You hold your breath as you log into the college’s portal. This moment could reveal your admittance into one of your Early Action or, more significantly, Early Decision applications. You click the “Review My Status’’ button and read: “Dear Student, after reviewing your application thoroughly, the admissions committee regrets to inform you that you have been deferred….” This moment may feel like the end of the world, but is it?

What does a deferral mean?

Contrary to popular belief, there are more options than “Admit” or “Reject” when it comes to college admittance decisions. [Your favorite college, just like your favorite ice cream shop, has more choices than simply vanilla and chocolate.] A deferral does not mean “yes, you have been admitted,” but it doesn’t exactly mean no. Unlike being wait-listed, a deferral means we will review your application once more during the Regular Decision round. The college you applied to still considers you a competitive applicant, but they want to review all other applicants before making a final decision.

Why do colleges defer students?

Some may argue that they’d rather get a straight Yes or No when it comes to hearing from colleges. It would give them peace of mind instead of dealing with the suspense of waiting two more months for a decision. While this is true, students have to keep in mind that it is now more competitive than ever to apply to colleges. With many schools going test-optional, including top schools like Harvard and MIT, more and more students are applying, hoping they now have a higher chance of getting in. Northeastern University reported a 30% increase in Early Action applications in 2022 compared to 2021. Yale reported that 2022’s Early Action application pool was the second largest in its history. With the higher rate of applications, admissions offices often need more time to evaluate each applicant thoroughly. So, yes, it would have been better to be accepted. But, getting a deferral, or a decision of “maybe” from your top school, is much better than being rejected. Getting into any college is an accomplishment, and the deferral means they’re giving you another chance—don’t lose hope!

Will I get admitted eventually?

As with all parts of the college application process, there are no guarantees. But, having spent careful months planning, researching multiple schools that fit well with your personality and academic goals, and submitting an application that you’re proud of, feel confident that you’ve done your best.

There are several reasons a student gets deferred or rejected by a school:

  • The admissions committees have different plans for how they want to build their incoming class.
  • Your “dream” college might not be where you can thrive as well as you previously imagined.
  • Colleges can’t physically hold every applicant on their campuses. They can run out of space and become unable to accept applicants, even if they’re qualified for the school.
  • Real people are reviewing these applications, and we all know that people can make mistakes or decisions that we disagree with.
  • However, unlike a rejection, there is still hope and a few more ways to let colleges know you’re still interested!

What are my next steps?

Carefully review the Deferral Decision letter in your portal and read it thoroughly. Some schools offer ways to let the applicant show they are still interested right through their portals. For example, Northeastern and the University of Miami have a simple form to fill out to show that you still want to be considered in the regular decision round.

While it may be an optional form for UMiami, students who don’t fill out the form are unlikely to be reconsidered because of their lack of demonstrated interest. Also, UMiami allows you to be reconsidered as an Early Decision 2 applicant, which is a binding agreement to attend if they accept you during this process. In other application portals, like the University of Michigan’s and Georgia Tech, you can submit a statement of continued interest directly through your account. Be sure to watch out for their word limits, and remember that some colleges with this option may not want you to submit any additional documents besides that one. Admissions offices are flooded, and there is a difference between showing continued interest and bombarding the office with even more documents for them to review. Research deeper into each college’s policies first to ensure what they expect from their deferred applicants.

As a final resort.

You can always email your admissions counselor, if you know them, or the college admissions committee with a letter of continued interest. This letter should be about a page long or less and state that you are still interested in the college and explain why. Giving the college an update on your life since you applied can only help your application! Did you gain a new officer position in your club? Are you working on a new project that you’re excited about? Was there a recent development in your field of interest that further sparked your passion for achieving a degree at that school? Let college admissions know that even after submitting all your applications, you’re still striving and preparing to be the best student you could be! We do NOT recommend traveling to campus and barging into the admissions committee to argue your case. We’ve heard of students trying this in the past, and even when they cry in their argument, it almost always leads to rejection.

The deferral decision is not a dead end but another opportunity to have your application reviewed and let colleges know that you’re fit to study and live on their campus.



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