When applying to a school during the early decision or early action period, there is always the chance that the admissions office may choose to defer an application. When this happens, students are often left with more questions than answers. What are the next steps? What can I do, as a student, to increase my chances during the regular decision period? To understand how you can improve your chances, it’s important that you first understand why colleges choose to defer some early applications.

What A Deferral Letter Really Means

For many admissions officials, a deferral letter is not something sent out casually. If a college sends you a deferral letter, there are several different reasons that may have driven admissions officials to defer your application:

  • To examine your application in the context of their regular decision applicants
  • To see how an applicant takes advantage of their last year of school
  • Rarely, to gently let down certain types of applications, such as legacy applicants

Due to the rise in early applications, even competitive students may not secure one of the limited spots available at prestigious or popular schools. If you have received a deferral letter, it’s important to take a step back and remember: this is not the end of your story with this college.

A deferral letter is not a rejection letter, nor is it an indication of worth or if you belong at this college. Essentially, a deferral letter is the way that admissions officials say, “we need a bit more time, and maybe some convincing, but you’ve got potential.” 

Take a moment to breathe, take a step back, and consider your next steps before moving forward after your deferral letter.

Your Next Steps With This College

Your deferral letter isn’t the last time you’ll be considered by this college, as you’ll be considered again with the regular pool of applicants. As such, there are still things you can do from here to increase your chances of being admitted. Once you’ve thoroughly read through your deferral letter and made note of any requests, it’s time to improve your chances.

Evaluate Your Decision

After receiving a deferral letter, it’s natural to feel a wide range of emotions and question your commitment to this college. Take a moment to reflect. Is this college still a top choice, or would you be better served by focusing your efforts on other colleges instead? 

If you feel the need to step away from your application to collect your thoughts, take the time to take a few days away. Come back to your decision and application when you’ve had the chance to reflect both emotionally and logically to the deferral.

Rework Your Application

Often, deferral letters include a brief explanation of why you were deferred or a brief overview of supplemental materials they’d like to see from you. Reworking the information you initially included on your application to add updated info, or sending additional materials can help increase your chances of ultimately being admitted. 

However, it’s essential that students follow the college’s instructions to deferred students, as not doing so can lower your chances during the regular decision round. If a college asks students to not send additional materials, deferral letters, or updated applications, listen.

Reaffirm Your Interest

One of the greatest ways to reaffirm to a college that you’re still very interested in attending is by sending a letter of continued interest (if the college accepts them.) Overall, your letter should be short, but hit three main points:

  • Open by thanking the admissions office for considering your application
  • Give a brief overview of the accomplishments you’ve made since your initial application
  • Provide an honest indication of your interest in the college

Overall, remember that your purpose in this letter is to restate your genuine desire to attend this college. While you may be upset or confused by your deferral, this letter’s tone should be positive and thankful.

Many college admissions offices consider or at least note, student interest in other ways. Visiting the college campus, sitting down for an alumni interview, and updating your transcript as soon as possible are all ways you can further reaffirm your interest in this school.

Overall, remember that there is only so much within your control with the college admissions process. Focus on improving the aspects of the process you can control, such as improving your grades or reworking your college application. 

While you didn’t get admitted during the early round, you will still be considered during the regular decision period, and your college admissions journey is far from over.

Your Next Steps In the College Process

While the schools you applied to in the early round may still be among your top choices, you should still focus on the applications to the colleges on your regular decision list. After your deferral, it’s important that you continue to apply to every college on your list because your early applications still have to be considered in the regular application pool. 

Take A Step Back

After receiving a deferral, it’s normal to feel all sorts of emotions: rejection, confusion, sadness, and even frustration. Taking a moment away from the entire college application process, even your entire holiday break, can remotivate you and bring your goals back into focus when you return to working on your applications. 

Make sure you keep an eye on your deadlines and don’t neglect prior college-related commitments during this break. If necessary, set aside a few hours once a week to handle college-related paperwork and tasks during your break. You’ll still spend the majority of your time away from the process letting your mind recharge, but you’ll make sure you stay on track.

Bring In Outside Perspectives

During your college admissions journey, you’ll often spend a lot of time with your own applications and essays. It’s easy to get frustrated and be tempted to throw it all away and start over. When this happens, bringing in an outside perspective can help you in several ways. From your peers to an experienced college counselor, many of the people supporting you through your college journey can help you with your applications in more practical ways. 

Apply to Your Regular Decision Choices

While you may be tempted to throw all your efforts into improving your chances at your early decision or action colleges, don’t let your regular decision applications suffer because of this. Make due time to give each college application the time it deserves. When your deferred application is being considered with the regular decision, there is still a chance that you may not be admitted. Tend to your regular decision applications, using input from your initial deferral, your outside supporters, and your own observations to improve your applications.

A Deferral Does Not Define You

While it may be upsetting or frustrating to be deferred, there’s still the chance that you will be admitted during the regular decision period. Your deferral does not indicate anything “bad” or wrong about your application; in fact, a deferral says that your application shows potential.

If you’re interested in taking full advantage of your application’s potential, consider bringing in an experienced college counselor. With years reviewing every aspect of applications that lead to admission, our counselors know how to tailor your application for each college and every stage of the college admissions process.