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Articles / Applying to College / Counselors Offer Advice to Deferred Students

Counselors Offer Advice to Deferred Students

Elena Loveland
Written by Elena Loveland | Dec. 27, 2019
Counselors Offer Advice to Deferred Students


Not every college application will come back with an acceptance, and sometimes you'll instead get deferred. This can be disappointing, but it doesn't mean the end of your journey. We talked to counselors to get some advice on what your deferral plan of action might include.

1. Being Deferred Is a Second Chance, Not the End of the Road

Many think that being deferred means there is no shot and they look at it as a denial. "I try to shift their thinking to the second chance because if a college did not want you, they would have already sent you that denial," she says. Instead they see your potential and are giving you a chance to showcase yourself.

2. Read Your Deferral Letter Carefully

Most of them will tell you the exact next steps to take. It might include responding via email or a form to reaffirm your interest. It might be they need midyear or current grades. Maybe they want an additional letter of recommendation. Did you take the SAT or ACT again and not send your updated scores? Read carefully and follow their directions.

3. It's Not Always About First Semester Grades, Though They Are Important

What else can you tell the admission office about yourself? Have you won any recent awards? Completed a project you are proud of that relates to your academic interests? Tell them! This is not the time to be humble.

4. Take a Look at Your College Application With Fresh Eyes

Where have you gotten in? Would you be happy at any of those schools? Which other schools are still due to send you decisions? Would you be okay if you did not get any more "yes" responses from schools? If not, take a look at a few more places to apply. Be honest with yourself and authentic with your college applications.

On the other hand, sometimes students are deferred for a reason you might not expect.

"Sometimes students can be denied admission, not because they aren't qualified, but because they are more than qualified. The admissions officers may believe the student won't accept the spot if offered. If this happens too often, it lowers the college's yield— the number of acceptances in relation to admission offers — and low yield reflects poorly on a college," explains Michelle Silbernagel, an independent educational consultant with Touchstone Advising.

Silbernagel recommends that this is a good time to really demonstrate interest in these target colleges and "show them some love." Students can send fall grades, updates on recent achievements or awards along with a note about the specific things they like about the college, the programs or academic features that put the college on their list in the first place, she says.

And hopefully, you can get accepted in the next round if that is truly your first choice school. But if not, think of this an opportunity to apply to other colleges — and you might even find a better fit that the first choice that deferred you.

Written by

Elena Loveland

Elena Loveland

Elena Loveland has been a writer and editor covering higher education and college admissions for 18 years and is the author of Creative Colleges: Finding the Best Programs for Aspiring Artists, Designers, Dancers, Musicians, Writers, and More. Creative Colleges has earned recognition in the College Bound Teen, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Gate and U.S. News and World Report's Annual College Guide. Loveland has spoken at the Independent Educational Consultants Association and the University of the Arts, as well as several high schools about college admission for creative students. She has worked for the National Association for College Admission Counseling as editor of the Journal of College Admission and for NAFSA: Association of International Educators as editor-in-chief of International Educator magazine. As an independent journalist, Loveland.s work has appeared in numerous publications such as American Careers, Dance Teacher, Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education, International Educator, Pointe, Teen Vogue, University Business and the U.S. News & World Report's Annual College Guide, among several others. She has a master's degree in English and has been an adjunct instructor at three higher education institutions. Loveland provides private college admissions consulting to families upon request. She lives in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

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