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How to Handle a Deferral

Many students who apply to college Early Decision or Early Action find that they’ve been deferred. This means they’ve neither been accepted nor rejected – a sort of college purgatory.

Typically, a deferral means the college wants to compare you with the full applicant pool because your application did not shine enough for them to admit you early.

Unlike a rejection, a deferral offers hope and chance. Ironically, hope is not always the least stressful option. As any expert college advisor at International College Counselors will tell you, you have work to do if you want to improve your chances of turning the ‘maybe’ into a ‘yes.’

Here are some of our expert college advisor suggestions:

Don’t panic. There was a reason you weren’t rejected straightaway.

Get information. Contact the admissions office and see if you can find out why you were deferred. Then ask for suggestions regarding turning your deferral into an acceptance. By doing this, you’ll make the school aware of your commitment and get more information. Do not call if the college has specifically asked that students not call them.

Send in improved standardized test scores. This is especially important if you believe your submitted scores may not have measured up.

Send in your midyear grades. Make sure you meet their deadline. (This is another reason why it’s important not to let your grades slide.)

Write a letter. Sincerely express your continued interest in the school and reasons why you believe it would be a good match for you. Do not come across as whiny or negative. Be yourself; sound personal; be interesting; and be positive. Attach information about any new and meaningful accomplishments that are not in your original application. Accomplishments could include new activities, new awards, or leadership positions.

Send in a strong and relevant additional recommendation. The best letter of recommendation would discuss your unique qualities and why they make you an ideal match for a school. What you don’t want to do is send a generic recommendation. Make sure you check to see if the college allows you to send extra letters before you send them.

Let go. There is no one “perfect” school. Hope for the best but prepare to go to one of your backup schools.

INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS TIP: At all times and with all communication with the college be polite, professional, positive and enthusiastic. Don’t express frustration or anger or try to convince the school they made a mistake.