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Deferment 101: Part 1- The Deferment

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By Aimee Nemeth

There’s a little known grey area in the college acceptance game called a “deferral” and, while it may appear to be every student’s nightmare when applying to their dream school, it can have a positive result in the end. The good news is it is not a deny.

What does a deferral really mean? You may know that it falls between an “acceptance” and a “denial” but really it’s when the school your student applied to wants to review all of the candidates before giving a final answer about the student’s admission status. The interesting thing is that the deferral pool will not usually be considered until the regular application pool is reviewed. This is also usually the time that some of the accepted students will notify the college that they are not coming - opening up more spaces.

We at Parros College Planning have walked a number of families through the steps to take when given the news of a deferral. We understand this process, and we know from experience how frustrating it can be. There’s still a chance your student will be able to get into the college that deferred them, but there are a number of steps that you and your student can take in order to enhance their application (and, in turn, their chances of getting accepted!).

The first step that Tim Parros always recommends is that the student and the family weigh all of their college options after receiving the initial deferral notification.

“Students should sit down and really think about whether or not the school that deferred them is their ‘dream’ school,” he advises. “Since you will not hear right away about the final decision it can be a confusing time in the life of the student. If you want to continue to wait for the school then you need to be positive and take the right steps. Otherwise review your college list again and think about each college that you did get accepted into”.

Sometimes students don’t hear about a final admission decision, accepted, until close to the final student acceptance deadline for the school, in even some cases it can be as late as June or July. This limbo makes it hard to plan a graduation from high school party and announce where the student will be attending college. Added to this late notice means that the student has only a few days, or weeks if they are lucky, to make their decision, compare their financial aid offers, and submit a confirmation of the acceptance to the school.

But once your student has weighed all of their college options, and has decided that they do, in fact, want to attend the school that has deferred them; we have a few tips to help them shine in front of admission officers.

First, take a deep breath. Prepare for a long process with your student. We’ve had students find out quickly that they were denied or accepted after the initial deferral, but this is relatively rare in our experience. If the student is determined that this school is their dream, get ready for the marathon, because there are going to be a lot of emotions over the next few weeks to months.

Check the admissions website for any information regarding deferrals. Some schools may not want your student to reach out about the deferral, others may low-key recommend it, but each university or college has different policies. It is important that your student double checks this part of the process, because you don’t want their application moving to the bottom of the pile because they reached out and the admissions website strongly advised against contact.

It’d be a shame to lose an opportunity simply because your student cannot follow directions.

If the school is open to contact, have your student review their original application carefully. Have them make a list of activities or events they’ve been involved in since they initially submitted their application. Perhaps there was a mistake, or they missed putting an award or volunteer experience into the application the first time around.

Once your student has crafted a list, they can type up a deferral letter to the admissions office that will supplement their original application, as well as reinforce their commitment to the school. The letter should include:

  • Why they are still interested in the school/program? Why is your student a good fit for the campus community?
  • A brief summary of new activities/awards, as well as any missing information from the initial application.
  • A link to the student’s resume or up to date LinkedIn page
  • Reiterate why they would be a good fit with the school, and thank the admission officer for their time.
  • Make sure that your first semester grades are sent- you may have to remind your counselor.

Once your student has double-checked their letter for any mistakes, it’s back to the waiting game. While you and your student are waiting, make sure your student’s financial aid information has been received by the school. Don’t give the school any reason to pass up your student because of overlooked paperwork.

The reality is, if your student has been deferred, it’s smart to consider another school in case the deferment ends up in a denial. You and your student can still go through the process of contacting the admissions office, while also holding another school on the back burner.

Remember, most final acceptance decisions aren’t due until May 1st, giving your student plenty of time to make an informed decision, both financially and academically, while waiting on that final letter from their deferred school.

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