What to do if you get Deferred

By: Caroline Koppelman

Many students apply early decision to a school because “they want to be done” with the college admissions process or they believe it will increase their chances of getting in. Despite the higher admit rates afforded by early decision, the majority of seniors will still be rejected or deferred. It’s important to remember that a deferral is not a rejection. If the school really didn’t want you, they would have simply rejected you. The majority of seniors who apply early will not get in; for example, 6,173 students applied for the Harvard class of 2020. Only 918 students were admitted, while 4,673 were deferred or rejected. 

A deferral is one of the hardest decisions to stomach because of the inherent uncertainty. You’re not in, but you’re not out. You’re transferred to the regular decision pool and will be reevaluated with the rest of the regular decision applicants. A deferral is a chance for the admissions committee to take a fresh look at you. As such, it is important to take the following three steps. 

  1. Finish your regular decision applications. It is easy to get bogged down and internalize the feeling of rejection, but you cannot lose sight of the end goal. After getting deferred, you will have two to three weeks to finish your other applications, which is plenty of time. 
  2. Reevaluate if your early decision choice school is still really your first choice. We’ve found that the deferral is often a blessing in disguise as many students didn’t actually want to attend the school they applied to. If you’ve decided that you still 100% want to attend the school, you should email the rep in mid February. 
  3. Reintroduce yourself to the representative and update them on what has happened since you initially submitted your application. This should include your first semester grades and continued involvement or expansion in your extra-curricular activities. You should reiterate that the school is your top choice school. IF, and only if, the school is truly your first choice, and you wouldn’t even entertain the thought of attending another school, tell them. Here you can reiterate the reasons you listed in your supplemental essay.

A deferral may feel like a rejection, but it's important to understand the distinction. Many deferred students will still be admitted to their schools, and if you are proactive and follow the steps listed above, you will undoubtedly improve your chances.