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What Do I Do if I Am Deferred?

One of my students recently called me, frantic as he had been deferred from Duke, which is his dream school.  “Does this mean I am not getting in? Why? What should I do?” The questions came fast and furious.  I could feel his anxiety and worry over the phone.  I asked him to take a deep breath before I began to assure him.

So, what does it mean it you are deferred?  Or waitlisted?  Both terms mean the same thing, which is that students are being given a second chance at being admitted.  Early admission statistics this year indicate that a large percentage of BIG-10 universities, the Ivy’s and other well-known schools, received an overwhelming increase in admission’s applications.

The University of Virginia applications went up by 15%, Harvard’s applications were up by 42%, and MIT was up by 62%. Rather than rejecting good-fit students with strong profiles, applications are instead deferred to the regular decision round where they will be reviewed once again within the context of the regular application pool.

This allows colleges to make decisions on strong applicants within the context of all of the applicants. Some colleges will even ask students for additional information, including updated grades.

Oftentimes, a deferral is less about the applicant and more about the college.  It is difficult for colleges to predict exactly what their regular decision pool will look like, so they use deferrals as one more tool to ensure that they are building a well-rounded class.

So, what should you do if you are deferred?

  1. First, reflect about whether this college is still your top choice. It is very normal during the college admissions process for a student’s thoughts and feelings about particular colleges to morph and change, especially this year when so many of us have not been able to visit campuses in person.  I know you are disappointed in being deferred.  Discuss your feelings with someone you trust.  Does this deferment change your feelings about going there?  Why do you want to go?  Would you be just as happy going to another school?  These are all questions to ponder now.
  2. Next, find out what the college wants from you. Most schools will only request an updated grade report, which you can easily secure from your guidance office. If there are other items they are requesting, such as an additional letter of recommendation or updates on extracurricular activities, secure those and send as soon as possible.
  3. Write a deferral letter. Colleges want to admit students who are committed to attending. Writing a letter reaffirming your desire to attend that college can only help.

A deferral letter usually results in lots of anxiety, sadness and confusion.  At Launching College Success, we can help students and parents understand their options, their chances of admission and help them through the deferral process.  Get in touch with us at: or 240-285-1920.