Every time I’m asked about a college’s decision to defer a student’s admission, I’m reminded of the Sesame Street song “Turn that frown upside down.” It’s as easy to turn a frown into a smile as it is to turn a college’s decision to defer into an acceptance. It just takes a little extra effort on the part of the student.
One of my clients, who was deferred from the University of Delaware recently asked: “Does this mean I’m not going to get in?” “No”, I quickly answered. “What it does mean is that the college wants to take another look at your application before making a final decision”. This year, more colleges are deferring students than ever before, chiefly because they are receiving more applications than ever.
In this article, I will share what a decision to defer an admission really means, why this is happening more than ever, and the steps students should take to increase their chances of being accepted before a final decision is made.
Let’s start at the beginning…
What is a college deferral?
Rather than rejecting students with strong academic profiles, some colleges decide to defer some early applications to the next round of decisions in the spring. This means that the student’s application will be reviewed again within the context of all the applications received in January.
In other words, this is a second chance for admission. The colleges then have the opportunity to create the strongest freshman class possible within the entire applicant pool.
For deferred students, you will have an advantage over applicants who apply by the January deadline because those applications are not typically as strong as those who apply in the fall.
Why do colleges issue deferrals?
There can be many varied and different reasons why a college decided to defer students. There may have been a large number of applicants in the early rounds and a decision was made to defer those students who are ‘on the bubble.’ This means those students weren’t an automatic YES, but they are still viable and admissible according to the college’s criteria for admission.
Another reason is that the college decides to consider another variable, besides GPA, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. This was the case for any deferral decisions that recently came from Elon College.
When a colleague of mine inquired as to why a student was deferred from Elon, this is what he learned:
“Regarding XX, the largest factor to her receiving a deferral was a lack of demonstrated interest. They do have a strong academic profile, but in an effort to reduce our acceptance rate and increase our yield, we put a heightened importance on demonstrated interest. During the Regular Deadline decision making process, we put an even larger emphasis on demonstrated interest, so I would really recommend her engaging with our office, her admissions counselor, any virtual events we offer, and visiting campus if we are able.”
I suspect that as more students apply to more and more schools, demonstrating interest in the college will become more of a factor in admission decisions.
4 steps students can take when they are deferred:
- Write a letter of continued interest. Address the letter to the Director of Admissions and the regional admissions counselor assigned to your area. This letter should be polite, professional and, most importantly, concise. You want to share the most important information about your current year while still respecting their busy schedule. It’s important, also, to write the letter shortly after receiving the deferral decision. Keep your letter positive and express your gratitude to the admissions committee for reviewing your application. Let them know of your continued desire to attend their school and why you feel you are a good fit for their school. Add any updated information about internship experiences, college courses and grades you have received your senior year. Finally, thank them again for reading your letter and any additional consideration they will give to your application.
- Send an updated transcript. Ask your Guidance Counselor to send an updated transcript with your senior year’s first semester grades once that document has been updated.
- Send another letter of recommendation. If there is a teacher or coach that you feel knows you well, but you neglected to ask them for a letter of recommendation, ask them now. Have them email the letter to the admissions counselor assigned to your area.
- Demonstrate your interest in attending this college by visiting in person. If you haven’t visited the campus, schedule a visit as soon as possible before March. If a personal visit isn’t possible, I suggest you reach out by phone or by email to the regional admissions counselor and the Dean of the school where you will major. Before you reach out to them, brainstorm a series of questions that you have about the school and the major. Have that list handy when you call. Let them know of your strong desire to attend their school and take that major. Ask them any questions you have. Explain to them that you aren’t able to visit their school and ask them if there is anything else you can do to demonstrate your interest.
Just this month, I had two students reach out to me because they were deferred from their top-choice school. Both students have had amazing in-depth internship experiences this fall that have solidified their desire to pursue nursing and law. When they completed their applications, they were just beginning these experiences.
Their letter of continuing interest was about their internship, what they did, and what they’ve learned about themselves and about their chosen profession. I am very hopeful that what they shared, combined with a letter of recommendation from their internship and an updated transcript, will turn that frown from a deferral upside down when they are admitted to the college.
If you’re in the same boat, there are still things you can do. Complete the list above as close to receiving your letter of deferral as possible so there’s no mistake in anyone’s mind that you genuinely want to attend that school.
And if I can help you, please reach out.
Dianne has supported many students and families through all the twists and turns of the college admissions’ process. She can definitely help your child also. Give her a call at 240-285-1920 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.