How to Handle Your Deferral from a University That is One of Your Top 2 Choices

Being deferred means you have met all of the school’s requirements. They liked your application. They did not have a reason to say no.

Unfortunately, schools only have a limited number of spaces available in their early application pool. Based on conversations with many Admission Directors this fall, I learned that more than 50% of most schools' applicants exceed their student profile. But they still could not accept all of the equally qualified candidates— and some got moved to the deferred pool. These candidates are not denied— they will simply  be reviewed again with the regular decision applicants.

However, as an early applicant you still have an edge: you were proactive.

Keep in mind that while you may meet all of their qualifications, schools are looking for students who look like their student body, who add to the class they are assembling. This is no easy task. They are trying to ensure that when they select an applicant, the student is likely to have a good experience on campus; there are classmates who share their passion, there are classmates with the same extracurricular interests, that they will be able to provide you with what you need to be successful and happy. 

They want to make sure that the student is going to stay.

Colleges are businesses and need their customers to be happy. Often, a deferral is a gift to keep you making a wrong choice

So what should you do if you are deferred from a school?

1. If the school is one of your TOP 2 choices, immediately indicate your continued interest in the colleges’ portal. There is typically a box that you will need to check. There may also be space to provide an update, if so, you will want to provide additional information. If not, you may still want to send an email to admissions with any updates.

2. The additional information should be new accomplishments that you have made since you applied. For example,

  • “XYZ school is still my first choice, and I am happy to continue my admission journey as I anxiously await a positive decision as a deferred applicant! Since I applied, I have achieved a few more goals and wanted to provide an update.

    First semester this year was challenging, but I earned a 4.23 GPA. While I was happy about the outcome, I think more important were the study skills I developed in AP Calculus. This class really stretched me, and I feel confident these new study skills have prepared me for college.

    In addition, I secured a role in the spring musical ‘West Side Story’. I will be playing ‘Velma’ and look forward to once again being on stage. The opportunity to audition for roles in the XYZ theatre department, as a non-theatre major, is one of the reasons I feel XYZ is such a great fit. My admission guide, Ben Jones, had such positive comments about being part of the XYZ community, I felt at home. I know I would contribute to the community and look forward to your decision.”
    • i. Notice the GPA reference—  have your guidance counselor immediately send your mid-year report.
    • ii. Notice the added accomplishment of earning a role.
    • iii. Notice the name drop— indicating you were on campus and it was important to you, so you remembered your guides’ name.
    • iv. Finally, this is a positive, not begging, opportunity to reinforce why you continue to be a great candidate.
    • v. If you feel you have not accomplished anything in the past 4 months, please discuss a topic from a class that gave you insight, that made you realize you are open to learning outside of your major.
    • vi. If you are still stuck— set up an appointment for us to help you craft a compelling letter. Trust us, we're experts!

3. What not to say:

  • “I love the campus”, “the beautiful campus…”. They are there—  they know it is beautiful! Anyone can Google a picture of the campus— so unless you have some unique facet of the campus to highlight (maybe they have equestrian stables and you have ridden horses your whole life, or you have a relative that assisted in the design of some of the buildings).
  • “XYZ is the perfect place for me”. The focus is on how you benefit from attending the school— not on how the school will benefit from admitting you. See the difference?
  • Stating it is your first choice— without giving any meaningful supporting reasons as to why, or why they should give you deeper consideration.

4. The letter should have a clear purpose of providing additional information— not just restating your desire to attend. It should be concise. The admission departments are overwhelmed and do not want to feel like they just wasted time reading a fluffy letter telling them how great their school is.

I cannot stress enough that you should only indicate continued interest if it is in fact one of your top 2 choices. Consider the thousands of students applied here as a back-up— presumably taking a spot from you or from someone else for which this is their first choice. Or worse, consider the thousands who applied just so they can say they were accepted. College admissions is not a contest. It is about you finding the school that will get you to your goals, a place where you flourish, continue to become who you were meant to be. In a year, no one will care where you were accepted, only who are and the vision you have for your future.

Life is full of choices, but it should not be about notching acceptances as though they are worth something – the only acceptance that matters is the school which you actually want to attend. Focus on where you are going, what you want to accomplish, and who you want to become. Pull your application from a school if you know it is not one of your top choices.

You make the decision for the school— you deny them!

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