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Waitlisted or Deferred? Dealing With A Deferred College Admission

Getting waitlisted for college can be a struggle. Receiving a college deferral letter can be distressing. If your teenager has been deferred or waitlisted, then they’re probably feeling disappointed, if not devastated. But, says Dr. Kat Cohen, chief executive officer and founder of IvyWise, students shouldn’t lose hope. “Some students have a second chance of getting admitted to their first choice schools.”

What to Do if You’re Deferred or Waitlisted

Here are next steps for your deferred or waitlisted student.

1. Submit additional materials (but only if asked).

This may include an updated transcript, another teacher recommendation, SAT II scores, or nothing at all. “Don’t send in additional materials just to do it. Some schools recommend that students share updates or new grades to show what they have been up to since they first sent in their applications. There are definitely some schools that ask students not to send in additional materials though. Students should follow each individual school’s specific instructions,” stresses Cohen. “Sending additional information to a school that asks students not to can create more work for the admissions offices there. It shows them that the student doesn’t know how to follow directions.”

2. Write a letter.

In this letter, your teenager should reiterate their interest in attending the college. They should remind the admissions committee why he’s a good fit, and provide updates on any new achievements (like the starring role in the school play they just landed). If the school is still the student’s first choice, they should reiterate that if admitted they will attend, as schools worry about yield rates.

Cohen says, “In addition to confirming commitment to the school, students should also showcase their informed interest. This means they should show that they are really familiar with the school and why it is such a good fit for them. This is important because schools want to admit students who want to be there. A lack of informed interest in an application or letter can help colleges weed out the applicants who might not be as serious about attending.” Adds Cohen, “It is a good idea for a counselor or advisor to review this letter.”

3. Finish other applications.

Deferred students will need to complete and submit the rest of their applications for the regular decision round. “Don’t let your disappointment from a deferral hurt your chances of admission at other colleges,” advises Cohen. “Stay positive and on track.”

4. Be realistic.

At many colleges, especially the most competitive, it can be tough to get in off a waitlist. For example, at the University of Michigan, the regular admissions rate for the class of 2019 was 26 percent, while a mere 1.6 percent were admitted off the waitlist.

Deferred students could still get in. If your teenager is a strong candidate for the college from which they were deferred, then there is still a chance they could be admitted. “Deferred students are typically good-fit students with strong applications who will be reviewed again in the context of the regular applicant pool,” says Cohen.

If your student does want to accept a place on a waitlist, be sure to let the waitlist school know. Then secure a spot at a school at which your student was accepted — “so your student has a college to go to in the fall,” says Cohen. Students can work with their college counselors to determine what materials, like grades and/or a waitlist letter, they should send to the school. Again, this is not the time to send more materials than a school has asked for though. “Double check to see what your waitlist school recommends and asks for, and follow directions,” says Cohen.

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