Banner Blog #11 Deferral

How to Navigate the Deferral Limbo

“I didn’t get rejected…but I didn’t get accepted either,” one of our students said in a dazed voice on December 15th last year.

She was confused because she expected a “yea” or a “nay” and wasn’t prepared for a more ambiguous response. As we start the new year, most colleges have already released their Early Decision (the binding option) or Early Action (the non-binding option) results. And while those who were accepted are celebrating and those who were rejected are nursing their wounds and working on other applications, students who were deferred are left with some important questions.

Why did I get deferred?

The short (and perhaps unsatisfactory) answer is that it depends on the particular college from which you were deferred. Some colleges, particularly smaller schools, don’t defer very many students. Several years ago, a student we were working with received a deferral letter from a top-ten liberal arts college. He was one of only eight students that were deferred that year at a school that accepted about a third of its ED applicants. It was clear from this student’s profile that the college was waiting on his first semester grades to see how he performed in certain classes.

Other colleges, including some famous top-tier public and private universities, send deferrals to almost all applicants that fall within the range of admissible applicants. For example, according to the Yale Daily News, Harvard and Princeton deferred 68.1 and 78.9 percent, respectively, of EA applicants in December 2013. In these very competitive applicant pools, a student has to be truly outstanding (in this context) to be admitted.

Recently, it’s been clear that some schools have been playing around with their yield rates during the EA round of admissions. Less selective schools with Early Action (the non-binding option) are taking the chance that some of their top applicants are not serious about attending. This may be particularly true for schools that are “easier” to apply to because they do not require a supplemental essay. If they are receiving applications from out-of-state students who have never visited their campus or have not otherwise demonstrated interest in the school, they may just decide to send a deferral to these students. After all, no school wants to be considered a “safety school.” This may be the reason why the student at the beginning of this article was deferred to her EA school. She went on to win admissions to several much more selective colleges during the Regular Decision round of admissions.

Rest assured, however, if you received a deferral, your application will be considered during the Regular Decision round, and there are steps you can take to garner your application a closer look.

What should I do to increase my chances of an acceptance during Regular Decision?

  1. Keep your grades high. Though this advice may seem obvious, some students let “senioritis” take over and forget that if the admissions office is “on the fence” about an application, they may even request and analyze third quarter progress report grades (in late February through March). You’ve already worked so hard for three and a half years. Don’t start slacking off now!
  2. Update your college. Along with the first point, don’t forget to send in your Mid-Year Report to your EA or ED school! Additionally, if you have any positive changes in your resume—for example, winning a regional science bowl, being selected for a lead role in the spring play, becoming the captain of the softball team, or working as an intern at a tech company—be sure to write an email and include this information. You should also note that it’s not too late to add to your extracurricular profile!
  3. Affirm your interest in the school. We all want to be wanted, and colleges are no different. If you do write an update to your school of choice, remember to affirm your desire to attend that school should you be accepted. While you don’t want to bombard the admissions office with too many emails and other communication, it doesn’t hurt to update them and to express that X college is truly your top choice school and that you would be delighted to matriculate!

While waiting can certainly be tough, some students change their minds about their future college between December and April. I’ve seen several students who received a deferral from their ED school decide later on that they didn’t actually want to attend what was their former top-choice college. Their deferral was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed them to change their mind by the Regular Decision notification season. Other deferred students ultimately were accepted at their EA/ED school and were pleased with the results. Regardless, don’t be discouraged—if you’ve constructed a strategic college list, you will hear good news in the spring!

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