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What to do with a Deferral – Follow these Easy Steps

College admission deferrals are more prevalent this year than ever before. Why? Colleges may have many reasons, but the most popular colleges continue to see an upsurge in the number of applications. This puts colleges in the position of making more decisions about who to admit before they have even seen regular decision applications. Some colleges defer many students and others defer none at all. In any case, a deferral means the college is essentially telling you that they want to see if you compare favorably to the other students who have yet to apply.

So now what should you do?

  • Pause for some reflection – Regardless of the reason for deferral, let’s face it—you are not the college’s first choice. Whether you have a good chance of ultimately being accepted or not, you should evaluate what you think about the school. If this was your first choice college, is it still your first choice if they are not sure about you? Are you really a good fit there? Would you rather be at a college that is more interested in you? If it isn’t your first choice, do you want to continue with the process? It’s important to consider what the college is telling you and how this compares with your priorities.

  • Check the statistics – Some schools admit many students from their deferred pool of students; others do not. Know which colleges are more likely to admit you.

  • Follow the directions – If you have decided you want to continue with the deferral process, make sure you read the college’s communication carefully and follow the directions they give you. While a seemingly obvious step, some students fail to read directions correctly or ignore them altogether. Many colleges will ask for first semester grades, updated awards or activities, or maybe an interview. If a college specifically asks for something, do it. If a college specifically instructs you not to send anything, do not! Always make sure the college wants information before sending it or trying to set up an interview.

  • Communicate with the school – Unless a college specifically tells you not to send anything, write a deferral letter or short email. Be sure to send your communication to a particular person, especially if you have an admissions representative or someone you have met at the college. Let the school know if they are still your top choice. Tell the school why you are still interested, focusing on why that school is a good fit for you. If you have any new awards or accolades, share those. If you have any new performances, papers or other talents, send a link to highlight your work.

  • Consider your talents – If the college allows you to send additional information, certainly advise them of any new accolades. Also consider whether or not you have properly highlighted all of your talents and described your activities in a way that makes them compelling. If you have new activities or a new focus for your extracurriculars, include these in your deferral letter.

  • Check your email – Some colleges will ask for additional steps or information from students on the deferral list. This can be anything from a simple check in to drafting an additional essay. Be sure to watch for these and follow instructions.

  • Keep up your grades – Keeping up your grades senior year are more important than ever. You will certainly not be considered if your grades begin to slip. Keeping grades high and consistent can make a difference.

  • Don’t be discouraged – Sometimes a deferral can be a blessing. There may be other colleges that are a better fit and this process can force you to turn your attention toward those schools.



Cheryl Chamberlain

Principal Consultant,
Chamberlain College Consulting

I've posted some resources on this site to help students and families, but there's SO much to know. If you have gotten to the point you need professional help, I'm here for you!


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