10 tips for dealing with the disappointment of deferral

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While we hope it’s been a very merry Christmas for all, many high school seniors are struggling since Early Decision and Single Choice Early Action decisions have been released.

If you were rejected from your Early Decision school, mourn the loss and then put on your “big girl/big boy pants” and move on to other opportunities. If you were deferred, which means your application has been pushed into the regular decision pile, here are some tips.

What can you do?

Being deferred is NOT the same as being rejected. It may feel that way for students, but this year, with a record number of early applications, there has also been a record number of deferrals. So being deferred gives a student a second chance to impress the admissions office.

First you need to decide if you care enough to even respond to the deferral. Have you already been accepted to a college that you feel is a better fit for you? If so, you can just ignore the deferral. However, if you still have high interest in the college where you were deferred, here are some Do’s and Don’ts:

You should:

  1. Be pro-active. If you care about attending the school, let them know – don’t be silent. Read their communication carefully and follow the instructions. Do what they tell you to do, and don’t do what they tell you not to do. Don’t send additional letters of recommendation if they specifically state NOT to do so; you will pay the price.
  2. Send new information. A deferral is a great opportunity to share new information with a college or university. If you have an update on: first semester grades, new test scores, new award(s), new employment, new leadership role(s), etc.
  3. Create a strong letter to the Admissions Office. Articulate why you are still interested in their college and specifically why it is a good fit for you from an academic perspective. Highlight fall accomplishments and stress how these grades reflect your true commitment to academics. Mention a project or paper of which you are very proud. Make sure you stress your renewed interest in the college without sounding sappy. If you don’t know the Admissions representative who handles your high school, try and find out.
  1. Strut your stuff. Consider sending an additional writing sample. Perhaps you’ve written a great English paper this past semester.
  2. Stay upbeat. Don’t come across as angry, threatening or bitter in your letter, remember you are still applying for admission, i.e., they still hold all the cards.
  3. Consider a campus visit. If you’ve never visited the campus this is especially important. If you have previously visited and choose to revisit, try to do something during the upcoming visit that allows you to have a meaningful interaction with the admissions office, students or faculty at the college or university.

You shouldn’t:

  1. Be a pest. Don’t stalk the Admissions Office and hound them with multiple emails each week. Don’t whine and complain to the Admissions Office that you deserve to be accepted.
  2. Be desperate. Don’t accuse the admissions office of making a mistake in their decision. Don’t fawn unnecessarily and share too many sentiments that make you sound like as if you are unstable or unreasonably devastated by the deferral. Don’t boast about small accomplishments. It is not really worth it to share that your SAT score went up 10 points.
  3. Send superfluous information. Don’t send volumes of e-mails, snail mail or packages hoping to change their minds. Be judicious about what you choose to share. Don’t send multiple extra letters of recommendation. Don’t send gifts/bribes.
  4. Compare yourself to others. You might hear about another student who you feel is less qualified who was accepted. Don’t share that information with the admissions office.

While it’s important to be pro-active, it is equally important to be realistic. If you are still steadfast in your interest, then follow-through with the above items, but think realistically about your other options. Take a harder look at the colleges that have told you that they want you and give them a fair shake.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com