You’ve been anxiously watching your mailbox for weeks for a “yea or nay” decision from your college of choice. You rip open the envelope only to discover the answer lies somewhere in between—you’ve been deferred. So, what now?

A deferral means the admission committee has put off making an admission decision for your application while they gauge a number of factors. These factors are generally related to the overall profile of incoming class and your place within it. Take heart: colleges issue plenty of flat denials to applicants. A deferral means that you indeed possess many qualities desirable to the college.

A deferral often speaks more to the uncertainty of the admission process on both ends- how you will fare as a student and how the class will fare as a whole. In some cases, the uncertainty may be in part about the applicant’s qualifications: Will the senior grades show progress?  Will the applicant improve their ACT score in December? Is the student’s interest sincere and strong?  And so forth.  But just as often, the uncertainty has to do with the rest of the applicant pool: How many students will apply regular decision?  What demographics are unbalanced in the regular pool?  Have the college’s goals for the class been modified?  The answers to those questions may be more decisive than anything the individual applicant does.

Keeping the above in mind, if you are deferred by your first-choice school, there are ways to demonstrate your continued interest and commitment. First, let the school know if they are your first choice. Colleges want the most qualified applicants, but they also want students who want to be there. Write an email or letter to your admission counselor (if you don’t know who this is already, you can find that information online).

Second, it is sometimes appropriate to update the information from your original application by submitting any new test scores or an additional teacher’s recommendation from a teacher in whose course you are excelling. Lastly, pursue excellence in the last half of your senior year. Colleges will receive your grade reports if you are deferred and will carefully consider improvement (or lack thereof) when reevaluating your application. Continue challenging yourself academically and through extracurricular activities and keep the admissions staff updated should you attain any pertinent achievements.

Most importantly, don’t misread a deferral as disinterest from the college. The very fact that you’ve been issued one speaks to the college’s continued interest in your development throughout your senior year. Don’t lose heart; stay in touch. Admission limbo isn’t permanent.

  • Noor Waheed

    Hi, I got deferred from Columbia ED. :/
    What should I do? Columbia is my first choice. And the thing is I’ve read in some places that writing to them will annoy them. It may go negatively. And yet some people have said writing to them is important.
    Advice would be much appreciated. :/

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