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When the College App Comes Back ‘Deferred’

How to Navigate Next Steps


Spring bursts into our lives with a breath of fresh air, bringing optimism for new beginnings.

College bound seniors and their parents are especially aware of this season, as they await college acceptance news, the start of a new chapter.

Some students have already been notified of their college acceptances, others have been deferred for acceptance until universities have a chance to review the entire applicant pool. As an experienced educational consultant, I have assisted many students in navigating their deferral process.

If you fall into the deferred student category, here are some proactive steps to take:

Follow Directions

If the deferral letter requests additional information added to your file, be sure to submit the appropriate materials. If you are directed not to send further documents, heed this advice.

Stay Focused

This is not the time to contract senioritis, do not allow grades to slide or make poor decisions that might lead to disciplinary action. Maintaining a strong GPA in rigorous courses is a must.

Keep the Admissions Office Updated

Unless otherwise discouraged (see above), it is wise to send recent grades or test scores if they have improved (which they should).

Submit More Recommendations

It is often helpful to submit an additional letter of support from a teacher, coach, director, or employer. Unless you are asked to withhold further recommendations, send one more that provides a unique perspective on you as an individual. Do not, however, inundate college admissions personnel with multiple letters that simply reiterate what they already know.

Present Your Latest Accomplishments

If you have won any awards, gained recognition, or completed a unique project since you first submitted your application, be sure to provide these details to the admission office. Keep in mind, these individuals have a lot of reading to do this spring, so do not overwhelm them with minutiae.

Demonstrate Interest

It could be that you were deferred because of a lack of demonstrated interest. If you failed to convince the admission committee of your desire to attend the college, perhaps your application was tabled until admission officers had a better sense of your enthusiasm. If the college is your top choice, express this to the admission office in a letter or email. If it is not your Number 1 school, show your firm interest in the college without being disingenuous. Unless instructed to withhold contact, an occasional email to ask an intelligent question and reiterate your desire to attend can be useful.

Do Not Show Up Unannounced

Unless the deferral letter suggests that you visit campus for an interview, do not arrive at the admission office’s door during what is a busy time of application review for regular decision. If you would like to schedule an appointment, call ahead, and find out if admission officers are accepting appointments.

Decide Whether to Fight for Admissions to Deferred Colleges

If you know that you are in the range of admissions, then develop a four-month self-marketing plan. If you know that you were not in the range, then let it go, and work only on your other colleges.

Develop a Pro-active Deferral-to-Acceptance Plan

Plan to send one piece of new, significant information to the college each month starting now.

Information to send includes: new test scores, a senior year teacher letter of recommendation, counselor reaffirmation of interest, an applicant update letter, and an additional letter from someone who knows your true potential.

Take Pride in Your Efforts

Regardless of the deferral decision, you must focus on finding other colleges where you will be happy and fulfilled. Understand that there are many colleges that can offer the right personal fit.

Good luck!

Laurie Cortez is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Independent Educational Consultants Association.



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