Getting a College Admission Deferral


What happens if your child recently received a college admission deferral letter?

Plenty of students, who applied to schools via early action and early decision applications, have received deferral notices.

Students need to understand that a deferral doesn’t mean that their hopes have been dashed. It signifies that a school has not decided whether to accept or reject the applicant and will show its hand when the regular decisions are released.

Just because a college defers a student’s application doesn’t mean the school isn’t interested in him or her. With so many students submitting large numbers of college applications to highly selective schools, these institutions are postponing a decision on more applications.

Students who were deferred shouldn’t sit around feeling sorry for themselves. Here are eight things to do liststhey can do:

1. Send in the card.

Some schools will ask deferred students whether they want to be considered in the regular admission pool. If still interested, the student should send in this postcard immediately.

2. Ask your high school counselor to intercede.

If the school is the child’s No. 1 pick, he or she should ask the high school guidance counselor to notify the college of this fact. A friend of mine, who is the college counselor at a private high school, says she will call or email the institution if this school is truly a teenager’s top choice. You can also ask the counselor to inquire what else the applicant with the delayed decision could do.

3. Assess your chances.

Some schools, such as Stanford University defer few students, while schools like Georgetown University defer many. Contact the school to see what percentage of deferred applicants eventually win an acceptance letter. If the odds are poor, prepare yourself mentally to look

writing4. Write a letter.

Send the appropriate college admission officer (if you don’t know find out) a letter explaining why you want to attend the school and how you would contribute to the school community.

5. Update the school.

Share any relevant news with the school that you didn’t include in your application.  This can include your latest grades as well as honors or activities.

6. Consider another recommendation or two.

I’d ask the school if sending in additional recommendations would potentially be helpful.

7. Look for connections.

If a parent or student know faculty, administration or distinguished alumni from the college he/she should solicit suggestions on how to proceed. This might lead to an offer to  make a call or write a letter on the child’s behalf.

8. Look elsewhere.

It’s unfortunate when a teenager gets emotionally attached to a single school. If you child has been deferred, it’s best if he or she gets used to the possibility of attending another institution.

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  1. My daughter did not apply ED, but a lot of her friends did. I was really shocked that the vast majority of them (smart, talented, well rounded kids) were deferred — and not just from the ivies. You read that the odds of getting in to a school are so much higher if you apply ED, but that didn’t seem to be the case for the seniors we know this year. Did the odds of getting in ED become slimmer this year….and if so, why?

    1. Hi Ruth,

      The odds of getting into the Ivies or other elite schools at the top of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings are always going to be terrible. They are better with ED, but the vast majority of students who go this route won’t get in either.

      The key is to apply to a wider circle of schools that will provide as good or a much better education for undergrads than the ones that unfortunately always make it on dream lists. Too many teenagers apply to schools based on brand name which is hugely unfortunate.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy