Over the past couple weeks, thousands high-school seniors who applied early decision or early action have received their admissions decisions. If your teenager was deferred, then she’s probably feeling disappointed, if not devastated. But says Dr. Kat Cohen, chief executive officer and founder of IvyWise, there’s reason to be optimistic.
“This isn’t bad news,” says Cohen, who’s also the bestselling author of The Truth About Getting In and Rock Hard Apps. “A deferred application means students have a second chance of getting admitted to their first choice schools.”
What to do if Your Application Gets Deferred:
Here are five next steps for your deferred student.
1. Determine if the college is still your teenager’s top-choice.
After the dust settles, sit down with your teenager and talk about the deferral. Does your student still feel as strongly about attending the school as they did before their deferred application? “Sometimes a student’s feelings about a college can change after a deferral. It’s normal,” says Cohen. “Take time to really consider if that college is still your number one choice.”
2. Submit additional materials (or not).
Sometimes, after a deferral, there will be additional materials required by the school for the regular admissions process. This can include new recommendation letters. Your teenager should ask a senior-year teacher in order to provide the most current picture of their academic progress or updates on extra-curricular activities, explains Cohen.
“Students should determine what the college requires and what’s appropriate to provide,” Cohen says. If a college asks deferred applicants not to provide additional materials, then comply with that request. “Students can ruin their chances in the regular round if they don’t follow the school’s instructions. Don’t send in additional materials just to do it,” stresses Cohen. “It can create more work for the admissions offices and shows them you don’t know how to follow directions.”
3. Write a deferral letter (if appropriate).
As you’ve likely heard by now colleges want to admit students who show demonstrated interest. “By writing a letter reaffirming commitment to the college, students can improve their chances of admission,” says Cohen. The letter should include three things. 1) Reiterate their interest in attending the college. 2) Remind the admissions committee why they are a good fit. 3) Provide updates on any new achievements (like the starring role in the school play they just landed). Cohen suggests students integrate their “why this school” essay into this letter. But only include if that essay was not part of the original application materials. “It is a good idea for a counselor or advisor to review this letter,” adds Cohen.
4. Finish other applications.
The downside of being deferred is that your teenager now needs to apply to other schools, including at least one safety school. “Hopefully, students who applied early have kept up with completing their regular decision applications,” says Cohen. “But if not, there’s still time. Complete those applications by the deadline. Don’t let your disappointment from a deferral hurt your chances of admission at other colleges. Stay positive and on track.”
5. Be optimistic.
If your teenager is a strong candidate for the college from which they were deferred— and it remains their number-one choice — then there’s no reason to lose hope. “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. “This can be an advantage, as the regular decision pool is typically not as strong as the early pool.”
Think of the deferral as another opportunity to impress the admissions committee. “It allows your student to show an improvement in grades, especially when they’re taking a challenging senior year course load. This can significantly help chances of getting accepted,” notes Cohen.
Last, but hardly least, it’s important for parents step up their support for their deferred applicant. Sure, it would have been great to have already crossed the finish line with an ED or EA decision. But says Cohen: “The college admissions process is a marathon, not a sprint, and parents have to provide strong emotional support throughout. “