What to do if you’re deferred

December 26, 2013

Deferred.  It’s a word that every early applicant dreads. Neither accepted nor denied, deferred students often feel as if they have been banished to college admissions purgatory, sentenced to a state of suffering and uncertainty from which they can do nothing to extricate themselves. Fortunately, deferment is not the hopeless state of limbo it appears to be.  If you’ve been deferred at your first-choice school, here is what you can do to tip the admissions scale in your favor.

1.  If you haven’t already done so, draft a letter addressed to the Dean of Admission and to the admissions counselor assigned to your area, which (1) reiterates your intentions to enroll if admitted, and (2) restates why you believe the college is most suited to your interests and goals.  Be sure to reference specific courses, extracurricular activities, and/or research opportunities that you plan to pursue. Also make sure that your letter strikes an upbeat and appreciative tone; doing so shows resilience and leaves a positive impression

2.  Solicit a letter of recommendation from someone who is able to offer a different and fresh perspective on your candidacy.  For example, if you’ve only submitted teacher recommendations thus far, consider sending a letter of recommendation from an extracurricular sponsor or work supervisor, who can attest to your abilities and work ethic outside of the classroom.

3.  Seek opportunities to earn additional recognition.  If you’re a writer, send an article to your local newspaper; if you’re an artist, explore opportunities to exhibit your work; if you excel in math, enter a competition.  Securing a competitive scholarship, distinguished award, or similar honor can often aid borderline applicants.

4.  If you have not yet visited your first-choice college, consider doing so. A campus visit offers you an opportunity to talk with students and current staff, meet face-to-face with your admissions counselor, and further acquaint yourself with the offerings of a particular college. It may also improve your admissions prospects.

5. Study hard.  First-semester grades are extremely important for deferred applicants and provide you with one last opportunity to exhibit scholastic promise and a trend of academic improvement. It is also important to note that a number of competitive colleges are willing to review January SAT and/or February ACT scores in their regular admissions processes, so if you’re not satisfied with your currents scores and believe improvement is possible, consider registering for one final test.

Finally, even if you take all of the above steps, your first-choice school may still decide to deny you come spring.  There are no guarantees in life or in the college admissions process, which is why you must familiarize yourself with, and be open to, attending several colleges.  Everyone has their dream school, and that’s ok; but it’s important to keep in mind that there are a number of institutions capable of offering you an excellent education and fulfilling four years.