Early Decision: Deferrals

Phoebe Keyes, Senior College Admission Advisor Dec 2020

It’s that time of year: Early Decision and Early Action results are beginning to roll in. We hope everyone is receiving good news, but this year is obviously a weird one. We suspect more students across the country will receive a “defer” decision this year. Colleges still don’t know how their enrollment numbers will shake out post-vaccine, so keeping students waiting in the wings gives schools more flexibility come spring. 

You’ve been deferred. Now what? 

First, it’s okay to grieve. Give yourself a minute to process. While a “defer” is not a “deny,” it still hurts. And the liminality of a deferral sometimes feels more disorienting. Should you keep your hopes up? Move on to another school? What does a defer actually mean for your chances? 

  • Read everything the school sends you. In the days after a defer, colleges often reach out to ask whether you still want to be considered for admission. If you don’t receive an email, log in to your portal and look for any links that indicate a deferral response form. 

Some colleges require an essay from students who still want to be considered. This can be tough. In all likelihood, you already wrote an essay telling this school why you’re the perfect fit. Don’t repeat yourself. Dig deep and be specific. 

  • Follow up. After break, send your admission representative an email reiterating your interest in the school. (Include your name, date of birth, and Common App ID number.) Be brief, but don’t forget to include any updates. It’s been a while since you applied. Do you have new test scores? New activities or awards? Did you raise your Calculus grade from a B to an A? Let them know. 
  • Follow up again. In late February, reach out to your rep once more. Let them know the school is still your number one choice and provide any relevant updates. Keep it short.  
  • Consider ED2. If you originally struggled to pick your favorite between two colleges, you might want to apply ED2 to your runner up. It can be difficult to switch loyalties and commit to another school—especially when you could still be admitted to the first—but applying ED2 could give you the best possible shot at attending a school you absolutely love. 

Most importantly, try not to read too deeply into one college’s decision. College admission is a process that sometimes defies logic. A defer or deny from one school does not mean you won’t get into others that are just as—or more—selective. 

Don’t neglect those other essays. Keep an open mind. Remind yourself why you love the other schools on your list. Breathe. And let us know how we can help

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