by Madeline Riley

As December rolls around, colleges start rolling out their decision letters. Some students will be jumping for joy as they’re accepted into their top-choice colleges, but many will receive a deferral instead of the offer of admissions they were looking for. If you’ve been deferred, don’t get discouraged; there are steps you can take to improve your chances of being accepted later. The fact that a university deferred you rather than rejecting your application indicates that they think you’re a strong candidate, but that they want to take a closer look at you and their options before making a commitment.

This is the time of year that we go into our Deferral Process here at Parros College Planning. We have helped hundreds of students get past the deferred notification of acceptance at their dream school.

What does it mean to be deferred?

Why were you deferred?

From our experience, if you’re deferred the college is concerned about one, or both, of the following: (1) admissions officers need more time or information to determine if you meet the quality of the incoming freshman class; and (2) they need to review applications that are coming in later, to ensure that they aren’t admitting a lower quality student and passing on forthcoming applications from more accomplished students.

What’s the difference between being deferred and waitlisted?

If you’re on the waitlist, the college has decided they like you, and they are willing to admit you, but they also have students that are of higher priority. This means you’ll only get in if other students reject their offers of admission and leave a space for you. If you’re deferred, the college has not decided whether or not you would be a good fit at their school. The decision isn’t as dependent on space, but instead on how you compare to other applicants.

Steps to take after a deferral:

Go over your application

After a deferral, it is crucial to recheck your application to assess its weak spots. It’s possible you forgot to attach a document, uploaded the wrong draft of an essay, or made another egregious mistake. If this is the case, being deferred rather than rejected is a gift. Maybe you didn’t have a glaring fault in your application but you realize your essays or letters of recommendation were not as strong as you thought. Use this information as you move forward in correspondence with this college, and go through you remaining applications to ensure similar errors are not made.

Call the college’s admissions office

Calling the college admissions office, or setting up an appointment in person is a good idea after you’ve been deferred. You can ask why you were deferred, you can reiterate your interest in their college, and you can see what updates will help them make their final decision. Reaching out will also show your commitment, put a face/voice to your application, and paint a fuller picture of you.

Send new information

The admissions office will likely give you advice on what information will be helpful to them in making their final decision, and what won’t. Send only what they tell you will! Include your senior year grades, an updated test score if you have one, or other essential information to give them a better sense of your growth since submitting the application.

Include a personalized letter

Write a brief letter to the college on why you still want to go there and what you have to offer that may not have been highlighted in your application. This gesture can go a long way. To draft a letter that will have the most impact do the following:

  1. Be optimistic. Do not waste time sending a frustrated or angry account of your deferral. Focus on the positive aspects of yourself and the university.
  2. Show a genuine commitment to the college as your top-choice and convey that you will accept an offer of admissions (if this is true).
  3. Don’t just say you’re interested; explain the reasons why that school would be a great fit for you. Give concrete examples of how you’d exploit opportunities they offer and also, what you will contribute. Mention classes, professors, research opportunities, clubs, sports, whatever it is that makes this school special to you.
  4. Go over what about you has improved since you applied. Are you getting straight As this semester? Did you retake the ACT and raise your score? Did you start an organization at your school or get a new job? Include this information.

Work on your backup plan

If the school you’ve been deferred from was your dream school, you may find it difficult to switch gears and focus on schools lower on your list, but it’s necessary to be realistic. If you still have applications to send in, put your energy into these. Go over your essays until they’re perfect and make sure you’ve included everything you want the admissions officers to see. A deferral should also give you a better sense of which colleges will likely be out of reach. If you’ve been deferred from a safety school, it’s time to realign your expectations and recalibrate where you will be sending regular decision applications.

Waiting to hear back from your dream school as your friends and peers make decisions on their college plans can be torture, but don’t be too upset. With a deferral, you’re still in play. A university that defers you likes you enough to see how you’ll react to the deferral and to see how your academics have progressed since you submitted your application. Take the time, and follow our five steps to create an action plan as a response. If you have more questions about the next steps please contact us so that we can review your options with you.

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