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Score at the Top Blog

Deferred From One of Your Top-Choice Colleges? Nine Things You MUST Do

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


There’s nothing good about getting deferred from early decision (ED) or early action (EA), but you can do a few things to increase your chances of turning that deferral into an eventual acceptance during the regular round. We’re going to share them with you.

  1. Remain optimistic. Lots of highly selective (“target”) schools have seen a significant increase in early decision or early action applicants for the class of 2021 (for example, MIT 19%, Northwestern 12%, and Princeton almost 10%), but those types of increases almost never result in comparable increases in admissions, so you’re not alone in being deferred.

    Further, deferral is vastly different than denial, and if you had a shot at ED or EA acceptance, you’ve got a better one in the regular-admission cycle. In fact, few schools defer students who have no chance at regular acceptance because they don’t want to give those students false hopes. Getting deferred means that you impressed the decision-makers enough that they want to give your application another chance under less competitive conditions. So, here’s what to do to further increase your odds of getting accepted.

  2. Ask your guidance counselor to call the admissions office to show support for you – and to try to find out WHY you were deferred – any missing items? Tough year? Huge rise in applicants? Your school’s support can be critical.

  3. Check your letter of deferral to see what additional information the college wants or will accept. If the letter doesn’t mention this, then certainly call the college’s admissions representative who signed your deferral letter to ask. In either case, follow their instructions to the letter. Caution: If the college specifies that you’re not to submit any additional materials, under no circumstances should you do so, because no school wants to accept a student who can’t or won’t follow directions.

    While some colleges want nothing more than the original app, others might request specific information, such as updated grades or another set of SAT/ACT scores. If they do, be sure to submit them. Yet other schools might allow or encourage students to submit additional recommendations, updates on extracurricular activities, or a letter that clearly demonstrates your interest. If that’s the case, get busy doing what’s shown below.

  4. Send an email demonstrating your continued high interest to the college’s admissions representative who handles applicants from your high school. Include the following in that email:

    * Show a genuine commitment to the school by saying so and stating that you’ll enroll if you’re admitted in the regular round (but don’t lie about that: if you’re not sure that you’ll enroll, say, instead, that the school is still a top-choice for you).

    * State or restate the reasons that the school and you are a perfect fit: Indicate why the school meets your academic and personal needs; do your homework – and show that you’ve done it – by making specific references to professors, courses, extracurricular activities, and research opportunities at the school; mention the ways that you’ll contribute, however modestly, to the school community.

    * Update the college on anything of note that you’ve achieved or become involved in, inside or outside of the classroom, in the period since you submitted your app.

    * Keep your tone upbeat and optimistic, because people respond positively to positive people.

    * End the letter with a polite “thank you” to the admissions officer for continuing to consider you for admission.

    * When you sign your email, include some additional identifying information, such as your home address, Social Security Number (yes, some colleges identify applicants by SS#), or name of your high school.

  5. Find another person who’s willing to write a glowing recommendation for you. It might be one of your senior-year teachers, your school’s principal, an employer, or somebody in authority with an organization for which you do volunteer work — anybody who can add favorable information to your file — and then have its writer send that letter.

  6. If you haven’t already visited the school, do so as soon as you can, because there are few better ways to demonstrate interest. “Demonstrated interest” – along with the previously mentioned commitment to enroll – can be the deciding factor that moves you ahead of other applicants.

  7. Keep your grades up: Falling grades can’t possibly help your chances and might well kill them.

  8. New data may be key! Make sure your counselor sends your updated transcript showing your first semester grades. Send an official SAT/ACT score report if you’ve gotten higher scores since you applied. And if there’s still enough time to take another SAT or ACT, consider doing it.

  9. Make sure to complete and send applications to your regular-decision schools in a timely manner, because there’s no guarantee that you’ll be admitted to schools that defer you from ED or EA. And don’t make the error of thinking that you won’t thrive at one of those regular-decision schools, because – as we’ve noted in previous posts – it’s not where you go to school but what you do while you’re there that makes all of the difference for your future well-being.

If you’ve got any questions about or need help with any of the above, contact us, because helping students and their parents successfully navigate through the labyrinth of the college admissions process is something we’ve done for decades – and do extremely well. We’d be happy to help you try to turn a deferral into an acceptance!