I’ve been deferred, now what do I do? 10 Do’s and Don’ts…

Colleges started notifying students who applied either Early Action or Early Decision beginning in December. Students who applied through an Early program receive one of three possible responses: Accepted, Rejected or Deferred. It’s easy to understand the first two (Accepted and Rejected) but many students and parents are confused by a Deferral. Common questions are: “What does it mean? What should I do?”

North Carolina State University released its Early Action decisions on 1/20.

Emily Castellano, a senior at Weddington High School, was deferred at NC State, but she has already been accepted at UNC Wilmington and Appalachian State and those were two of her top choices. Her mother, Karen Castellano, said she wasn’t really surprised, knowing how competitive NC State is. “We had an idea of the possibility of being deferred from what happened last year. Emily was somewhat disappointed but took it in stride. The deferral shows her the importance of  having an open mind to allow for a variety of options and opportunities.”

Jillian Jacobson, a senior at Providence Day School was deferred by Boston College, her first choice. Being deferred means that colleges want to compare your application with those applicants who apply during regular decision, typically a January deadline. I asked her how she was handling the deferral and what are her next steps. “By nature, I am a control freak. So a deferral was agonizing for me. It wasn’t a “no,” it wasn’t a “yes,” it was a “not now.” And after so much work and anticipation a “not now” wasn’t what I wanted to hear. But after a few days, I realized that a “not now” was much better than a “no” and I gained a new sense of hope and motivation for when they reviewed my application again during regular decision. It fueled my fire to finish out my first semester strongly.

“At first, I didn’t think there was anything I could do. But I love Boston College, so I decided it was worth pulling out all the stops. I emailed the admissions representative, informing him of my continued interest and I am currently writing an additional essay about why Boston College is the perfect fit for me. I plan to visit the campus once more in the spring.”

Jillian said that she was optimistic because “my application will re-enter their regular admission pool to be viewed with a new set of eyes. Applying Early Action gives your application two opportunities to be reviewed.”

What can you do?

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 where you were deferred, here are some Do’s and Don’ts:

Be pro-active and be realistic.

You should:

  1. Be pro-active. If you care about attending the school, let them know; that means 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 to NOT 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. If you don’t know the Admissions representative who handles your high school, try and find out.
  4. Consider sending an additional writing sample.
  5. 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.
  6. Consider a campus visit. If you’ve never visited the campus this is especially important. If you have previously visited and choose to revisit, make sure you try to do something during the upcoming visit that allows you to have a meaningful interaction with students or faculty at the college or university.

You shouldn’t:

  1. Be a pest. It’s important to be pro-active.
  2. Be desperate. 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.
  3. Send superfluous information. 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.

Most importantly, you need to be pro-active but 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; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com