What to do if you’re deferred… Part 1

By Lee Shulman Bierer

When students apply to college via Early Decision- ED (binding) or Early Action-EA (non-binding) programs there are earlier deadlines and earlier notification. Most students expect one of two outcomes: acceptance or rejection. So, some students are surprised and confused when they receive a letter notifying them that they’ve been deferred. Being deferred means that the college or university wants to compare your application to the other students applying regular decision.

But being deferred means different things in different programs and at different schools. According to Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admission at Duke University, “The hard truth is that if you applied early decision and were deferred, for most of you, unfortunately, the process is essentially over. Take a look at the defer letter – does it say what the admit percentage is for defers? If it does, take that number seriously. Keep that list of other colleges you’ve applied to close to your heart, because the odds say you’re going to be choosing from among one of them.”

A deferral from an Early Action program however, represents a greater chance for an optimistic ending. Many colleges with EA programs defer a majority of their applicants, except the obvious acceptances and rejections. In that case, being deferred means that you still have a reasonable shot and there are things that you can do that might increase your odds.

What can you do?

Let them know you care – make sure you respond to the deferral, either by following the instructions on the letter or by contacting your local admissions representative via email. It’s important to be judicious about your contact, i.e., don’t be a pest and don’t send superfluous information or gifts.

Communicate new, meaningful information – if, since you submitted your application, you’ve had a new leadership role, improved test scores, an award, an honor or a scholarship, or performed research or had an internship, etc., this is exactly what you should be sharing with the admissions office.

Send a new letter of recommendation – if you have a new teacher this year that can write about your exceptional performance, ask them to address the specifics of “why” you’d be a good fit for that school.

Most importantly –

Have a back-up plan – Make sure you have some solid safety schools on your list and confirm that all your materials have safely arrived at each school (transcripts, application, test scores, letters of recommendation).

One commenter on the New York Times “The Choice” blog wrote, “To paraphrase what my grandfather used to say, “Colleges are like streetcars. There’ll be another one along in a few minutes.”

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

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