How to Handle a Deferral

It goes without saying that nothing in 2020 has been normal, and the same is true when it comes to college admissions. This fall highly selective colleges saw a significant increase in applications, which was not at all expected. The thinking is that it’s largely due to the fact that students no longer were required to submit test scores, and therefore applied to colleges they might otherwise not have, fearing they wouldn’t be competitive. The result of all these applications is that we have seen an increase in deferrals.

What is a deferral? A deferral means your application will be held and reconsidered along with the regular decision applicants. Each college handles deferrals differently. Georgetown only accepts or defers students who apply in the early round; therefore, a large percentage of students are deferred. Other schools defer only a small percentage of applicants. The good news is that a deferral does not mean you were denied, you are still a candidate for admission.

Here are the next steps to take if you are still interested in the college:

Read the Directions Carefully

Be very clear on what the college is asking for. Many colleges will want to see your mid-year grades or updated test scores. Others will allow for updates on extracurricular activities (of which they aren’t a lot this year due to COVID), additional letters of recommendation, or a letter of continued interest. Some however will be very clear that they do not want you to send any additional information.  Follow the instructions for each college very carefully and send only what they request.

Mid-year Grades

Check with your high school regarding the process for sending mid-year grades. The procedures are different at every high school.

Letters of Recommendation

If a college will allow for additional recommendations, consider asking a teacher from your senior year, or a coach, mentor, pastor, etc. Find someone who can add something new to your application.

Letter of Continued Interest

Send a letter in late January, early February expressing your continued interest in the school. If you are certain you will go to that college if admitted, tell them that. If it is one of your top choices, tell them. Be honest and genuine.

Include a list of any recent accomplishments. Be careful not to repeat anything that’s already in your application. Only include new information such as academic awards, extracurriculars, or work experience. If you have a resume that would provide information in addition to what was on your activities list, include it. If you do not have much additional to add, that’s OK. It’s been one of those years.

Let them know why you feel the college is a fit for you and you for them. Explain how you will contribute to the college and the surrounding community. Be careful not to repeat what you have already said in your previous “Why Us” essays.

Send the letter via email to your regional admissions rep, and then follow that with a hard copy through the mail. Or if the college asks you to send information via their portal, follow their directions.

Show Them You Are Interested

Now is the time to show your interest through your actions. Attend another information meeting or a student panel online. If it is at all possible, go visit the college. I know that’s hard to do this time of year, but many schools are doing tours. It’s a great way for you to show them that you’re serious, and for you to determine if in fact that is your top choice college.

Deferrals can be frustrating but don’t get discouraged. Show your interest and do what you can do, and then move on. You have plenty of other great colleges on your list.