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Articles / Applying to College / Post-Deferral Blues?

Jan. 17, 2017

Post-Deferral Blues?

It's been about a month now since those of you who applied Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) received you decisions. Some of you were admitted. Great news! Others of you may have been outright denied. Not good news, but also not the end of the world.

Finally, some of you, perhaps far too many of you, were deferred. Your applications were bumped into the Regular Decision (RD) pool for judgment. That's just the way “early" programs work.

My question today, to those of you who were deferred is: What have you done about your application since you received you deferral notice? Feeling a bit (or a lot) blue about your situation?

In my experience working with deferred applicants, I have seen several different modes of mindset in their willingness to deal with deferrals. I guess two of the three might be labeled as “human nature." Number three is what I call a “strategy."

The first mode has something to do with gravity, I think, and that is to do nothing and hope for the best. You may be familiar with the Laws of Motion. “Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest" applies to this reaction.

The second instinct is what I call The Freakout. That involves going off the deep end of the pier, so to speak, and flooding the deferring admissions office with tons of information (most of which turns out to irrelevant) that in the end has no effect whatever on an admissions decision. In fact, the data overload may even create a negative aura that damages and offsets any hope of getting in.

The third approach — and this is the way I counsel deferred applicants — involves a carefully calculated and timed set of actionsaimed at creating a positive and at times even humorous tone in dealing with admissions folks. It's this third ploy that I'd like to discuss today.

So, if you haven't done anything about your deferral, what are you waiting for? Here are some highlights from my tried-and-true calculated strategy that may be able to lift you out of the blues:

– Think about anything that doesn't appear on your application. I'm talking about examples of things that can set you apart from other applicants — special long-term hobbies, work-related experiences, or anything at all that is unique. Don't hold back or fail to note (yes, write down your thoughts) anything, regardless of how unimportant or insignificant you may feel it to be.

Maybe your Mom, Dad, or friends might be able to remind you of something. Be comprehensive. I'm talking about eclectic, broad-based, personal things you do (not resume stuff). Do you create quilts (yeah, guys do that, too), collect Civil War soldier figurines, fly airplanes, do creative photography, etc.? If so, make a note about that. The point is to let the admissions office know what makes you an interesting person, beyond the “usual" stuff most applicants write about.

– Make sure that you understand some basics about dealing with deferrals. Your “marketing campaign" (that's what it really amounts to) should have two main parts:

1. Getting help from your school counselor and

2. Helping yourself in the classroom and through contact with admissions.

Your counselor should have enough motivation and advocacy ability to contact your college's regional admissions rep and lobby for your admission. This is something school counselors either know or don't know. If you haven't already done so, you should ask your counselor what s/he will be doing on your behalf regarding your deferral. S/he should ask the rep about what specific areas they would like to see you improve in order for you to increase your chances for admission. Once s/he finds out what areas they're looking at, s/he can lobby in your behalf and brief you. Then you can conduct your side of the campaign while s/he does his/her thing.

Your job will consist of doing your very best in your academics and continuing to pursue your activities, perhaps even making something “dramatic" happen in one of them. You should also make a point to maintain regular contact (not to the point of being a pest, though) with your admissions rep. Have you done a campus visit and had an interview (either on campus or local alum)? If not, then this could be one way of showing your passion for that school.

– You should consider getting one more outstanding (hopefully extraordinary) recommendation. The qualifications for an additional rec writer include knowing you well enough to write about you at more than a surface level. The majority of recs are ineffectual because they don't reveal anything other than platitudes about the applicant. A truly insightful, moving rec can do a lot to influence an adcom to make a positive decision. You've probably used your best teacher recs already. Think long and hard about someone who fits this description of knowing you well.

– You must tell your adcom rep of your intentions to prove, beyond a doubt, that you are a worthy applicant. This statement will take the form of a brief, but pointed, letter sent to your rep. A letter is preferable to an email at this point because it will certainly find its way into your folder. Sometimes emails don't get printed out and they kind of evaporate into the ether, thus, losing their impact. Here's a spec for that letter:

Length: 250-300 words, 3-4 paragraphs.

Tone: Upbeat, optimistic, eager. Kind of like “I can't wait to show you all these additional great aspects about me that are sure to convince you that I'm worthy." (Don't use that exact sentence. It's just a mood-setter for you.)

Format: Standard business letter.

Mailing: 1st-class USPS. Don't waste money on any form of overnight delivery or express mail service. When to mail: As soon as possible, since the review of RD applications is already underway.

Key points:

– There are some additional aspects to my profile that I will be revealing to you over the coming weeks.

– I plan on writing an additional personal statement to tell you about some special aspects about me that I didn't have room to include in my application.

– [School name here] is still my absolutely clear first-choice school.

– Thank you for your time in considering my resolve. I'll be in touch again soon.

Put these points into your own words. Don't have one of your parents write this for you!

– Now, regarding that additional personal statement … The topic will be some aspect about yourself that you didn't cover in your original application. Think hard and try to come up with something that ties you to what you want to pursue at your school. I see this statement as being in the range of 300-500 words. That would be 4-6 paragraphs. These are the key elements of a strong statement:

* attention-grabbing lead

* short, but effective sentence structures

* a firm thesis statement

* pointed anecdotes (mild humor would be appropriate)

* a conclusion that wraps up everything

The big picture here is that you should be prepared to develop a relationship with your adcom rep over the coming weeks. You should be ready to provide him/her with news about any kind of significant (emphasis on “significant") accomplishment on your part. You won't be in constant contact, but a good rule of thumb is about one contact per week. Your counselor should be doing his/her thing, too.

Although there are no guarantees, I can promise you that if you follow these guidelines, you will have done the very best you can to take your best shot at turning your deferral into an acceptance. It's going to take some work, but that's the price you must pay to pursue your dream school.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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